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SAC pauses consumer program on 'misleading' green claims

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2022-06-28 14:54:38 – USA

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) has paused its consumer-facing transparency program in response to criticism from Norway's advertising watchdog that it is causing businesses to make deceptive environmental claims.

Amina Razvi, CEO of the SAC, confirmed the decision to "pause the consumer-facing transparency program globally" as it works with the Norwegian Consumer Authority (NCA) and other consumer agencies and regulators to better understand how to substantiate product level claims with trusted and credible data in a statement issued on 27th June.

Last week, the Norwegian Consumer Agency (Forbrukertilsynet) stated that it believes Norrna is "breaking the law" by selling garments as ecologically friendly, and it warned H&M Group not to make similar claims. According to the Norwegian Consumer Agency, the SAC's tool is "insufficient as a basis for the environmental claims they have utilized in marketing."

While the watchdog applauded steps to make the industry more environmentally friendly, it expressed concern about the use of the SAC's Higg MSI tool to make environmental claims, particularly because the tool provides a standardized measurement of the environmental impacts of different textile types used in clothing manufacturing. However, it only "measures" the environmental effect of various types of textiles until the fabric is finished, not the total environmental impact of a finished garment purchased in a store. This "measurement" is based on average data for the environmental effect of various textiles coming from various locations and nations throughout the world.

Razvi stated that after receiving news from the NCA, the SAC has taken time to contemplate and examine the consequences for the garment business. As an organization dedicated to pushing good environmental change in the fashion sector, they take the NCA's notification very seriously. It is vital that they attempt to understand how to strengthen this work and move quickly and aggressively to ensure that the necessary changes in the sector and at the consumer level are hastened rather than slowed by a lack of uniform law and clear direction from regulators. They understand how critical it is for their members and the broader industry to have faith not just in their vision, purpose, and methodology, but also in the data and insights they provide.

Razvi added that they’ve decided to stop the consumer-facing transparency program internationally while they collaborate with the NCA and other consumer organizations and authorities to better understand how to verify product level claims with trustworthy and verifiable data. While they are completely dedicated to using standardized data to enable improved decision-making among all stakeholders, they recognize the extra hurdles that come with converting LCA data to consumer-facing information. They will work directly with their program partners to understand how this would function operationally, and they aim to revive the program after they have reached an agreement with the NCA and other regulatory organizations.

To supplement this, the SAC is requesting an independent third-party expert evaluation of the Higg MSI data and methodology "immediately."

They last conducted this evaluation in 2016, and it is a scheduled step that they are advancing in light of the NCA notice. They are also developing a comprehensive program, in collaboration with industry partners, to collect and update the environmental impact data quality and accessibility required for the industry to make better-informed decisions.

The SAC brings together more than half of the garment sector in a pre-competitive forum to unite on a shared framework and approach to standardized data while exchanging expertise and best practice. Without it, the sector is forced to rely on divergent and disconnected data, as well as particular corporate initiatives, resulting in slower and fragmented advancement. We wish to connect with our key stakeholders and critics more effectively in order to better understand their viewpoints and establish a shared understanding of the need to advance standardized global frameworks backed by effective harmonized legislation. This conversation and understanding will assist us in realizing our aim of empowering customers to make better decisions by providing them with reliable and credible data. They remain steadfast in their commitment to helping the fashion and apparel sectors become more responsible for the better, and we look forward to working and cooperating with others to achieve common goals for our industry.

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