Clothing brands are steadily heading one step closer to becoming more eco-friendly, but cases of greenwashing to sell more garments are making their presence known. Here’s how to spot greenwashing in the booming fashion industry and ensure your hauls are truly sustainable, from supply chain to website homepage to shop floor.
To be greenwashing vigilant, we first need to understand what greenwashing entails. Greenwashing is the term used to describe a company which spends more time and money marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than on minimising their environmental impact. The term was originally coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in an essay published in 1986.
Greenwashing is essentially cultural appropriation but for the fashion industry.
Distinguishing between consuming fashion responsibly and buying into greenwashing is not an easy task. Greenwashing can very easily slip through the net as it is not always backed up by credible data. This can make it difficult for consumers to make smart choices. So here are 4 ways to be greenwashing vigilant and become a more responsible shopper.
1. Find the figures
One of the easiest ways to work out whether a brand is greenwashing is by finding figures that back up their promises and claims. Terminology along the lines of sustainably made or ethically sourced in marketing campaigns has led to consumers taking brand claims at face value. How do we know what percentage of their garments are produced with recycled materials?
Look out for figures, statistics and data that support their claims on their website or social media. Clothing companies that are truly committed to sustainable and ethical practices will display the appropriate information clearly and proudly.
2. Check for certifications
To verify any claims being made, keep an eye out for industry-standard certifications. These include Bluesign, which follows a holistic approach, changing the “environmental impact of textiles for good” and Fair Trade Textiles Standard, which provides information on the supply chain and ensures factory workers are being protected. Worker exploitation and caring for the environment cannot continue to co-exist. It is also worth noting that self-accreditations mean nothing.
3. Break down the buzzwords
Buzzwords such as eco-conscious, sustainable and environmentally friendly are being used to promote the ‘green’ labels of fashion brands. Whilst many clothing companies and corporations are responding to the climate crisis in a positive way, there is a large portion who are exploiting such buzzwords to increase their profit margin. This occurs as a result of luring in the conscious consumer with false or misleading marketing claims.
In simpler terms, these words do not mean anything. They carry no substance and none of these words (natural, organic, eco-friendly, green, sustainable etc.) is regulated by the appropriate bodies. This means that companies are allowed to use them at will.
4. Avoid the green, nature-esque graphics
Businesses that place a green plant graphic into their marketing campaign and overuse it are likely doing so to distract consumers from what is occurring. The heavy and predictable imagery of flowers with a smiley face, green leaves and flourishing trees is neither exciting nor convincing.
Many fashion brands use such graphics to show that they work holistically and are eco-friendly but this is not always the case. Consumers can be very easily tricked into believing in something that is not true. And the happy flower is, unfortunately, a part of this.
As conscious consumers, we should be vigilant and smart with our purchases. We should also support companies that are actively working towards sustainability, even if they are not there yet. Progress is crucial.
Written by Ravinder Kaur