Plaintiffs Drop Greenwashing Lawsuit Against H&M

Two plaintiffs have dropped the false advertising lawsuit they filed in 2022 accusing fast-fashion giant H&M of greenwashing.

Counsel for plaintiffs Chelsea Commodore and Rakeedha Scarlett gave the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York notice of their voluntary dismissal decision on Dec. 13. The dismissal stipulates that the plaintiffs cannot litigate the same subject matter again.

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The crux of the case focused around H&M’s alleged use of “false and misleading ‘environmental scorecards’ for its products called ‘Sustainability Profiles.’”

Many of the claims made in the lawsuit cited an investigation from news outlet Quartz, which shows that the ThredUp partner‘s sustainability claims did not align with data in the Higg Materials Sustainability Index.

The lawsuit noted, “For example, one Sustainability Profile claimed that a dress was made with 20% less water on average, when it was actually made with 20% more water.”

Quartz’s investigation shows other instances of the same type of conduct.

The plaintiffs also said that H&M misled consumers on a recycling program it allegedly advertised, noting “Due to the fibers used in the products, recycling solutions either do not exist or are not commercially available for the vast majority of the products. In practice, H&M recycles only a small portion of what it collects in its in-store ‘recycle bins.’”

These claims, among others, the plaintiffs argued, resulted in “economic injuries” to themselves and the class of plaintiffs they represented because they “paid a price premium” for the garments H&M allegedly represented items as being more environmentally friendly through the “Sustainable Profiles” feature.

The plaintiffs argued that a “reasonable consumer would expect the products to be sustainable, that H&M provides accurate information about its products’ attributes and environmental impact, that H&M does not massively contribute to harmful environmental impacts and that H&M’s recyclability program avoids the piling of clothes in landfills.”

The lawsuit said Commodore purchased a sweater and a cardigan from H&M’s now-defunct Conscious Choice line. Meanwhile, it explained, Scarlett purchased a tulle set, a denim jacket, two wrap dresses and a pink cotton T-shirt, each from the Conscious Choice collection.

The company began phasing that collection out in 2022, after a scolding from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), which said its claims could have misled consumers into thinking products were better for the environment than they were in actuality.

Commodore and Scarlett sought to recover actual damages or $50, whichever was greater. They also looked to secure “an order enjoining [H&M’s] deceptive conduct.”

Court records do not indicate that H&M has engaged in a settlement with Commodore and Scarlett.

A spokesperson for H&M said the company remains committed to openness with its consumers.

“H&M is dedicated to transparency and works hard to reduce the impact of fashion on the environment,” the spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “H&M is pleased with the outcome of this case, and will continue to accurately inform consumers of its sustainability efforts as well as convey accurate information about its products and in its advertising.”

The plaintiffs’ counsel, Neal Deckant of Bursor & Fisher, did not return Sourcing Journal’s request for comment on the voluntary dismissal.

Though Commodore and Scarlett dismissed their case without a trial, theirs was not the only greenwashing-based lawsuit H&M recently had to address.

Two other plaintiffs, Abraham Lizama and Marc Doten, filed a similar lawsuit to Commodore and Scarlett in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Mississippi last year. Lizama purchased a sweater from the Conscious Choice collection, then claimed he was misled into believing that his purchase was “environmentally friendly.”

A judge threw out that case earlier this year, in part because H&M does not use the term “environmentally friendly” to describe its garments; instead, it chose phrases like “most sustainable products.”

Even upon the dismissals of both those cases, H&M isn’t scot-free of greenwashing litigation.

Randall Sally filed a class-action lawsuit on Nov. 15 against H&M in the same Missouri federal court that discarded Lizama and Doten’s class action. The lawsuit makes similar complaints to those outlined in the now-dismissed New York and Missouri cases.

Sally’s case alleges that the Swedish retailer gave consumers “false and misleading impressions” about the sustainability merit of a subset of its products.

“H&M labels the products with a green hangtag that claims that the products are made with ‘recycled’ and/or ‘organic’ materials. Contrary to these representations, the products are not made with any ‘recycled’ and/or ‘organic’ materials. Thus, the products are not made from any… materials that are less harmful and more beneficial to the environment. The marketing and labeling deceives consumers into believing that they are receiving products that are made with ‘recycled’ and/or ‘organic’ materials, but H&M’s products do not live up to these claims,” the lawsuit alleges.

Sally’s counsel, Adam Goffstein of Goffstein Law, did not return Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.

Per court records, H&M has not yet filed an answer to Sally’s claims; the spokesperson said the case has little justification behind it.

“H&M finds the claims made in this case to be baseless and without merit. We are confident that the court will agree, as it previously has, that H&M accurately informs consumers of its sustainability efforts and conveys accurate information about its products and in its advertising,” the spokesperson said.