Originally published August 2020.
Following on from my post on ‘Fast Fashion’s Dirty Problem‘, in an extension of this theme, today I wanted to write about the topic of ‘Greenwashing’ within the fashion industry. It may be a term you have heard already and are accustom to the sneaky way’s brands go about it. But, those of you who don’t, put simply it is when a brand markets a product/collection/themselves as Sustainable, Eco etc. for marketing purposes only. None of their practices are sustainable, they make no attempt to actually be sustainable, they are simply latching on to a trend in an aim to drive sales.
Think of your Missguideds or Sheins; all fast fashion brands whose business models are inherently damaging to the environment, they use this trickery to ultimately, as I said, drive a profit only. Therefore today, I want to delve deeper into Greenwashing; how to spot signs of a brand doing it and how to actively avoid it…
I want you to briefly cast your minds back to a few months ago when H&M, a hyper-fast fashion brand, marketed a very on-trend pink dress. Do you know the one I’m talk about? It was worn by a vast number of influencers, posing in this floor length, barbie pink dress, with Grazia magazine even dubbed it “the sustainable £19.99 H&M that is set to be a summer sell out”. With H&M being a brand who churn out millions of garments a year, at an ultra-fast pace, their business model is far from ‘Sustainable’.
The Greenwashing can be seen from every part of their Marketing, the pink dress in particular is made of Cotton, which, is an incredibly labour-intensive material, needing a large amount of water to create. You just have to walk into their store and see the amount of stock they try and sell, a large amount will not be sold and likely end up in Landfill; for H&M to claim to be Sustainable, it’s very laughable – a very clear sign of Greenwashing right there. [1.]
- ‘Greenwashing’ [2.] noun
- behaviour or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is
The act of Greenwashing is everywhere you look at the moment. Being sustainable is very much at the forefront of (most) consumers’ minds whilst shopping, therefore brands have picked up on this and will do anything for a sale and, they are somehow getting away with it. It simply takes a few minutes to work out if they truly are or not. Does their website have a clear Sustainable section stating who/where/how their products are created, with transparent information on their Supply Chains? Do they value people over profit? For the large high street brands in the form of New Look for example, they most certainly are not.
Buzz words such as ‘Eco’, ‘Sustainable’ and ‘Conscious’ are thrown around so carelessly that it would be easy enough for a shopper to be sucked in. BUT, ultimately as new garment can never truly be fully ‘sustainable’, there are millions and millions of garments on this planet already, so to create a brand-new item is always going to be wasteful.
Of course, brands who genuinely want good in the form of using natural materials such as bamboo or organic cotton, and are transparent in making sure their garment workers are paid correctly as well as each part of their chain has a low carbon footprint; this of course is a positive, as it is creating work for a vast number of people globally. These are the brand that can validly use ‘Eco’.Comparing to H&M who are creating thousands of ‘Conscious’ T-Shirts that is still probably made by a garment work being paid pennies in Bangladesh.
On the whole, spotting the signs of Greenwashing is very simple. Ask yourself, is the brand I’m buying from actually sustainable? Just think about it for a second and take in your surroundings. If the T-Shirt your holding is amongst 150 other garments in all kinds of sizes, made from a mix of all sorts of materials (polyester etc.) then the answer is most probably NO.
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