WHAT IS GREENWASHING?
Greenwashing is a term used to describe the practice of companies making false or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of their products or services in order to appeal to consumers who are increasingly concerned about the impact of their purchasing decisions on the environment.
HOW DO COMPANIES ENGAGE IN GREENWASHING?
One of the main ways that companies engage in greenwashing in the fashion industry is by using buzzwords and labels on their products that make them seem more environmentally friendly, to making false claims about a product's eco-friendliness in order to sell more of it, but without actually providing any meaningful information about the environmental impact of the product. For example, a clothing company might use the term "sustainable", "organic", or "ethical" on its labels, without providing any information about how the clothes were made or what materials were used.
This can be misleading for consumers who are looking for environmentally friendly products and may cause them to make purchasing decisions based on false information.
Another way that companies engage in greenwashing in the fashion industry is by making false or exaggerated claims about the environmental benefits of their products. For example, a company might claim that its clothes are made from organic materials when in fact, only a small portion of the material used is organic and also, without any certification from a third-party organization, there is no way to verify the accuracy of this claim. This type of false advertising can be particularly deceptive, as it can lead consumers to believe that they are making a more environmentally friendly purchasing decision when in fact, they are not.
Another tactic used by companies engaging in greenwashing is to make vague or misleading statements about their environmental impact. For example, a company may claim that its clothing is "made with eco-friendly materials" without providing any information about what those materials are or how they are eco-friendly.
One of the biggest challenges with spotting greenwashing in fashion is that there are currently no strict regulations governing the use of eco-friendly labels or marketing claims. This means that companies can make almost any claim they want without fear of being held accountable.
HOW CAN CONSUMERS SPOT GREENWASHING IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
Here are a few tips to help you avoid falling for false or misleading environmental claims:
Look for specific, verifiable information about the environmental impact of a product. Companies that engage in greenwashing often use vague or general terms to describe the environmental benefits of their products without providing any specific, verifiable information. Look for products that provide detailed information about the materials used, the manufacturing process, and any other environmental impacts of the product.
Check for third-party certification. Many environmentally friendly products are certified by independent organizations that verify the environmental claims made by the company. Look for products that are certified by organizations like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Fairtrade Foundation or the Bluesign. These organizations have strict standards for verifying the environmental benefits of products, so if a company is certified by one of them, it is more likely that their claims are genuine.
Avoid vague or misleading statements: Be wary of claims like "made with eco-friendly materials" or "sustainable fashion" without any supporting information. These types of statements are often used to make a product sound more environmentally friendly without providing any concrete evidence.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO AVOID GREENWASHING?
The most effective way to ensure you make responsible choices when shopping for clothes is to choose brands committed to sustainability. This means that they have a strong focus on reducing their impact on the environment throughout the production cycle. They also make sure that their supply chain is free of sweatshop labour and other unethical practices.
Ask the company about their environmental practices: If you come across a company that makes a lot of environmental claims on their website or in their advertising, ask them for proof of these claims.
Do your own research: If you are unsure about a company's environmental claims, do your own research to find out the truth about their product. There are a lot of legitimate companies out there producing high-quality, environmentally-friendly products, so do your research and find a company that is genuinely committed to sustainability. You can use the app or web of Good On You to learn more about your favourite brands and discover new ones.
Shop local: Whenever possible, support local businesses that sell sustainable products. By shopping locally, you don't have to worry about dealing with large distributors and shipping companies, which reduces your carbon footprint and helps protect the environment. Plus, you are helping to promote economic growth in your community.
Buy secondhand clothing: Clothes that are new or in good condition can be resold to others and therefore don't need to end up in the landfill at the end of their life. There are many online stores that sell secondhand clothing. You can also find good quality used clothing on sites like Depop or Vinted. If you like to shop in person, there are many charity stores that resell high-quality secondhand clothing at affordable prices. Buying secondhand is a great way to protect the environment and save money at the same time.
Ditch the fast fashion habit: One of the easiest ways to make an impact on your environmental footprint is to stop buying cheap clothing from fast fashion brands. Fast fashion has become quite popular in recent years, thanks in part to the affordable prices and wide selection offered by major retailers like H&M and Zara. However, this popularity has come at a price for the planet. Major fashion companies are known for using unethical practices to make their clothing quickly and cheaply. This includes using sweatshop labour in developing countries and relying on toxic chemicals in the production of their fabrics. The easiest way to avoid purchasing items from these brands is to adopt a slow fashion philosophy. Slow fashion is about consuming fewer clothes while buying higher quality items made from sustainable materials and produced ethically. Over the last few decades, many consumers have started to embrace the idea of slow fashion, so the next time you're shopping for new clothes, try to think about where your clothes were made and whether or not they were made using ethical practices.
WHICH FASHION BRANDS ARE GREENWASHING?
H&M is a global brand that produces clothing and accessories at reasonable prices. However, some critics believe that the brand is not fully committed to sustainability. For example, it has come under fire for allowing its cotton suppliers to use toxic pesticides and herbicides in its cotton fields. Greenpeace activists have also alleged that the company has been destroying tropical rainforests in Indonesia to make room for new plantations of rubber trees.
Zara is another popular global brand that sells affordable fashion items and accessories for women. Critics believe this retailer is not serious about reducing its environmental footprint and protecting the Earth for future generations. They also know that Zara does not adequately screen the factories it uses to manufacture its products to ensure that they are not using labour exploitation or hazardous chemicals in producing its clothes and accessories.
Mango is a popular European fashion retailer that sells affordable clothes and accessories for women of all ages. Critics claim that Mango is not fully committed to creating a more sustainable future for people around the globe. The retailer has been accused of not doing enough to reduce its environmental impact.
Topshop is a global clothing retailer that sells trendy clothing and accessories at affordable prices. In recent years, the company has come under criticism for making false claims about its commitment to the environment. For example, Topshop claimed that it was selling 100% organic cotton products to its customers. However, it later admitted that these products were only partially organic because they were made of a blend of natural and synthetic fibres. The company also claims that it uses only sustainable materials to manufacture its products. However, it does very little to ensure that its production facilities are using environmentally friendly practices to reduce the environmental impact of its production process.
Thses are a few examples but there is a long list of fast fashion brands that do greenwashing and lie to their clients.
WHAT BRANDS ARE NOT DOING GREENWASHING?
On the contrary, there is many other brands that works very hard to make there brands sustainable and etichal, here are a few examples of companies that use ethical practices and produce environmentally-friendly clothing:
Patagonia Outdoor Clothing - Patagonia is one of the most well-known brands of ethical and sustainable clothing. They make every effort to reduce their environmental impact by switching to renewable sources of energy and eliminating toxic chemicals from their production processes. They are also committed to preventing animal abuse and promoting animal welfare.
Reformation Women's Clothing - Reformation is committed to creating quality clothing that is eco-friendly and ethical at every stage of the production cycle. Their production process uses organic cotton grown without the use of chemicals, and they only use natural dyes to produce their colourful fabrics.
Eileen Fisher Women's Clothing - Eileen Fisher is a renowned designer who is committed to using only eco-friendly materials in all of her clothing designs. She works closely with suppliers and manufacturers to create stylish clothing without harming the environment.
DAI Wear - It is a women's fashion brand that empowers women. They have innovative fabrics that are easy to take care of and iron free, that feel like yoga but with tailored lines and versatile designs. These pieces can take you from work to the weekend with ease. And the best is they are over 60% recycled, bio-based and/or natural fibres in 2022.
Like these brands are a lot more out there that you can discover and start using them when you need to renew pieces in your wardrobe. Remember that you don't need to own everything all at once, just slowly and slowly, but you'll be able to build a sustainable wardrobe.
I hope this post helps you understand better the meaning of greenwashing and give you some tools to avoid the greenwashing of brands you tend to buy. If you need some help on which brands you can invest in and make sure they have good practices, I will be so happy to hear from you.