The fast-fashion brand H&M is being sued over misleading and false sustainability marketing. The proposed class-action complaint, which relies heavily on a recently published Quartz investigation into the retailer’s sustainability marketing practices, claims H&M’s advertising is “designed to mislead consumers about its products’ environmental attributes.”
The lawsuit (pdf) was filed in a New York federal court by Chelsea Commodore, a resident of New York state who purchased several items H&M sold under the label “conscious choice.” According to the retailer’s marketing materials, those products are made with “at least 50% of more sustainable materials.”
Commodore claims H&M “misrepresented the nature of its products, at the expense of consumers who pay a price premium in the belief that they are buying truly sustainable and environmentally friendly clothing.”
An H&M representative said the company takes Commodore’s allegations seriously and is “looking into them thoroughly.” They added the retailer has no further comment on the lawsuit at this time.
In June, Quartz published an investigation that found H&M showed customers environmental scorecards for its clothing that were misleading and, in a number of cases, entirely incorrect. The scorecards were meant to give customers a way to compare the environmental impact of their purchases, according to factors like how much water and fossil fuels were used to create the materials in a piece of clothing.
Quartz’s reporting showed more than half of the scorecards claimed that a piece of clothing was better for the environment when, in fact, it was no more sustainable than comparable garments made by the company. And in some cases, the data displayed were entirely wrong. These scorecards have now been removed from all of H&M’s websites.
Quartz’s findings underpin Commodore’s lawsuit, which also points to other forms of alleged H&M greenwashing. The lawsuit also questions the company’s claims on the sustainable content of its “conscious choice” collection and argues the company’s recycling program is misleading.
“Based on [H&M’s] extensive greenwashing campaign, a reasonable consumer would expect the Products to be sustainable,” states the document, which claims H&M’s practices put it in violation of New York General Business Law.
Bursor & Fisher, the firm representing Commodore, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Quartz.