New NAD Case Addresses Green Claims in Fashion Industry – Part 2

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In a post last week, we looked at NAD’s review of Everlane’s green claims relating to the company’s use of recycled plastic in its products and its aspirational goals to remove virgin plastic from its entire supply chain by 2021. In this post, we’ll look at what NAD had to say about Everlane’s “Safer For The Environment” claim.

Everlane advertised some of its apparel as “Safer For The Environment: This product is dyed with bluesign®-approved dyes, which are safer for dyehouse workers and better for the environment.” Bluesign is a third-party certification that assesses chemical safety standards in the textile industry and evaluates their impact on human health and the environment. Product certification requires auditing and verification that the manufacturing process complies with Bluesign’s rules and chemical safety standards at each step of the supply chain. Everlane relied on its bluesign certification where 12% of its mills and 10% of its factories are bluesign-certified and noted its goal of fully adopting Bluesign certification by 2025.

When reviewing this claim, NAD considered the reference to the Bluesign third-party certification as a qualification for the general environmental benefit claim. NAD determined that while the Everlane claim is qualified as it pertains to why the product is safer (use of bluesign®-approved dyes), there was no immediate reference to Bluesign as an independent certification on the specific product page where the “safer for the environment” claim appears. We interpret that to mean that NAD thought referencing the certification was similar to a general environmental benefit claim without explaining more about the certification. Thus, NAD recommended that Everlane explain that Bluesign is an independent third-party certification designed to remove harmful chemicals from the environment.

NAD also evaluated whether or not the certification provides a reasonable basis for the claim. While NAD found Bluesign to be a reliable and effective third-party certification body for assessing chemical safety, it noted that Bluesign assesses only one out of five areas in which a material’s environmental impact is typically assessed. For example, a widely recognized material assessment tool in the fashion industry, the Higg Material Sustainability Index (“MSI”), evaluates the environmental impacts of a material in five areas, and chemical composition is just one of those areas. In addition, NAD concluded that consumers may not recognize the nascent state of Everlane’s adoption of Bluesign certification. Based on this assessment, NAD recommended that Everlane qualify the claim to clearly convey that Bluesign has a more limited environmental impact on environmental practices and Everlane’s nascent incorporation of the certification.

This serves as a reminder for fashion companies wanting to demonstrate their efforts and commitment to the environment to consider whether any claim they want to make needs language to explain the claim or otherwise clarify any limitations.

Katrina Hatahet, a law clerk with Kelley Drye & Warren, assisted in the drafting of this post.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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