New NAD Case Addresses Green Claims in Fashion Industry: Part 1
As fashion companies begin to make more claims about what they are doing to help the environment, they need to make sure they’re in good position to support those claims with strong evidence. We previously posted about a pending lawsuit against Allbirds involving its carbon emission claims. In this post, we’ll start to look at what NAD had to say about certain product content claims and aspirational claims made by Everlane.
Product Content Claims
Everlane made claims about the number of recycled bottles that had been used in certain products, such as a parka (“60 plastic bottles renewed”) and a sweatshirt (“15 plastic bottles renewed”). To substantiate the claims, the company provided evidence that it works with plastic pellet producers to calculate the amount of plastic needed to produce a fixed amount of yarns, figures out how much yarn is used in a product, and uses an average bottle size to calculate the number of bottles that were renewed.
Everlane used the same type of data to support a broader claim that, to date, the company had “recycled over nine million plastic bottles.” Everlane provided evidence of the number of garments it had produced using recycled plastic since 2018 and, using the same math, calculated the number of bottles that had been recycled since then. NAD determined that the math checked out in both cases and that Everlane had a reasonable basis to make both claims.
In addition to claims about current practices, Everlane advertised that it intended to remove virgin plastic from its entire supply chain by 2021. As we’ve mentioned in recent posts, aspirational claims can be tricky to substantiate because you can’t prove what hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean that you can just rest on good intentions. NAD has held that “an advertiser must be able to demonstrate that its goals and aspirations are not merely illusory and to provide evidence of the steps it is taking to reach its stated goal.”
In this case, Everlane relied heavily on its Global Recycled Standard (or “GRS”) certification. GRS is an international standard that relies on well-established international and regulatory guidance (including the FTC’s Green Guides) for what constitutes recycled content. GRS also has stringent rules for third-party certification of chain of custody of recycled materials, content claims, social and environmental production practices, and chemical restrictions across manufacturing processes.
Everlane explained that it does not source GRS-certified materials containing any virgin polymers and only uses recycled polyester and recycled nylon content for its yarns. Also, in accordance with GRS standards, each stage of production is certified by an independent third-party. On its website, Everlane explains how it had achieved 90% completion of its goal and what it is doing to achieve the last 10%. Based on this evidence, NAD found the advertiser has a reasonable basis for its aspirational claim.
Safer for the Environment
Stay tuned for another post, where we’ll look at how NAD analyzed “Safer For The Environment” claim and provide other tips for substantiating green claims.