In recent years, sustainability has become more and more popular. 80% of consumers indicate that sustainability is now important to them*. This increase in demand for sustainability has been positive and an obvious step in the right direction.
Yet some brands are 'greenwashing' consumers into thinking their brand and collections are more sustainable than they really are. Greenwashing is unethical, misguiding and ultimately toxic for our planet - but what actually is it?
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is ensuring that your brand appears more sustainable than it actually is in order to boost sales and brand appreciation. This usually involves lots of marketing with little, if any, facts.
This may just sound like marketing, but the impact that it can have is unethical and damaging both to the environment and the workers.
For example, several huge fast fashion brands have created 'conscious' collections in recent years. While they will ensure you see the positive facts about these collections, you'd be hard pressed to find information about the working conditions for their workers, or the impact they are having as a total company on the environment.
It's like a bakery advertising 'Our cake is vegan!'. But when you go into the bakery, there is only one vegan option and the bakers out back are in a derelict building and getting paid next to nothing. However, to the passersby who read the sign, their initial opinion of the bakery is that they are an ethical and uplifting place to shop.
How to spot Greenwashing
- Facts over fiction. Look for numbers not words. Sustainable brands will have quantifiable goals.
- Sustainability is all about ethics. If no facts are given about the working conditions or payment of their workers, then they are not sustainable.
- A holistic approach. Brands that truly care about sustainability will be considering their impact at every stage from production to sale. If they only provide facts about one collection or one stage of the process, this is a red flag.
- Natural or vegan fabrics aren't necessarily sustainable. Many natural fabrics, such as viscose, are causing deforestation if not from a certified source. Many vegan fabrics are made from oils, again contributing to climate change. Look for the sustainable source. Read more about which fabrics are sustainable here.
- Check for certifications: such as Fair Trade, Standard 100 by OEKO-Tex, Cradle to Cradle certified and the Fair Wear Foundation.
- Use fashionchecker.org to see if the people who make their clothes earn enough to live on. Simply search the brand name.
What can I do?
- Avoid buying fast fashion or start buying less from brands whose claims to sustainability are vague or suspected of greenwashing.
- Start asking questions about the ethics behind conscious collections. How much are the garment workers paid? If you can't find out, instead support sustainable brands who can tell you exactly who made your clothes.
- Start having conversations about greenwashing and sustainability. Help to raise awareness and don't underestimate the impact this will have.
Have you been fooled before? Do you have any examples of greenwashing or alternatively, amazing brands that are truly trying to be sustainable? We'd love to know your thoughts...
*According to https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/EXK4XKX8