Greenwashing - the term you most likely heard. Maybe you’re not sure what is it about. What to think about it. Or how to recognise brands practising greenwashing. Fear no more, we are here to let you on all the ins and outs of this practice.
We live in times of overconsumption. Growing demand means growing supply.
But 2020 is the year when the world slowed down. We have all had more time to listen to what’s important. Even though the pandemic caused so much harm, it allowed us to dive deeper into the issues we worry and care about. Campaigns like “Pay Up” were born and even those, who are new to sustainability and ethical practices started paying more attention to what’s actually going on.
Taking care of the environment, being mindful of social causes and sustainability have been becoming hot topics in past few years. Which is amazing. But sadly some brands felt a need to take advantage of this fact.
That’s why this is also a great time to dive deeper into what hides behind the popular buzzword of “greenwashing.”
What is Greenwashing
First and foremost it would be best to reach out to good ol’ dictionary. According to the Oxford Learners Dictionary, greenwashing is defined as “activities by a company or an organization that are intended to make people think that it is concerned about the environment, even if its real business actually harms the environment.”
One of the brands that seem to constantly be getting backlash for their forced “ethical” practices is H&M. First they came out with the clothes recycling scheme. Then they tried introducing organic cotton and other sustainable fabrics. And even most recent example: “Conscious Collection” subtitled “sustainable style” on their website. But is it really?
Nice effort, but the brand still is a part of the fast fashion industry promoting disposable fashion and producing garments of questionable quality, which are most likely quickly find their place in the landfill.
Let’s take it as a PR or marketing stunt where unsustainable brands are making misleading claims to make us believe that they are environmentally friendly.
On the other side, it can result from a lack of education or “clumsiness” and for some brands can happen unintentionally, of course. But the sad truth is, at most time these brands simply don’t care enough.
Why jump on a sustainability bandwagon without any intension to make deep research into an issue and actually do better?
If the brands cared we would know where they source their materials from, what conditions are the garment workers working in and if they are getting a decent living wage.
How to Spot Greenwashing
As we mentioned before greenwashing occurs when the brand advertises a sustainable practice to coverup their unsustainable practice or to appeal to a wider audience, with no intention on diving deeper into the topic of sustainability.
And that doesn’t only apply to fashion brands. Greenwashing is everywhere. The more eco-conscious lifestyle is growing as a trend, the more brands will sadly use it to hide their unsustainable practices and score in the eyes of the mass.
A great example would be the beauty brands owned by big corporations, selling their products to China, but still claiming they are dropping a fully vegan and cruelty-free line. Sounds fishy? It is. Same with all of the brands claiming to be eco friendly, selling stainless straws or other eco-related products in a single-use plastic packaging.
When it comes to fashion, if a brand, which is a typical example of overconsumption, with “buy more” written all over everywhere, suddenly is “using organic cotton,” or creates a “sustainable collection” - something is probably not right.
Greenwashing Alert, What Now
If you have any, even slightest doubt into how ethical the company practices are, dig deeper. Check their website, supply chain, check how transparent they are, what others said about them. You have the power to research, ask questions and make your decisions based on it all!
Don’t just assume something is “sustainable” “ethical” or “vegan” because the label says so.
Check out the brand’s website, make your research, see what other sources are saying. Ask questions. Send them an email asking about their practices. Check who makes your clothes.
At the end of the day, if the brand is ethical, they won’t have much to hide.
And if you can clearly see the effects of the brand’s greenwashing - call them out. Let your friends know. Comment on the brand’s social media. Demand change.
How to Avoid Greenwashing
In a brief summary, being more conscious while shopping is the key. There are a few things you can do to avoid greenwashing:
Quit fast fashion It’s fast fashion brands that feel a need to use greenwashing as a part of their promotion. Quitting shopping at big popular retailers will be a great step forward.
Support small sustainable businesses Small businesses will usually be a lot more transparent than big brands. If you’re looking for classy and chic sustainable womenswear have a look at our shop!
Read beyond the label Don’t trust everything the brand feeds you. Spend some time researching online.
Check out Good On You Good On You allows you to see how transparent brands are and what information is out there about their practices.
Don’t trust the trends Trends come and go. Our clothes should be here to stay in our wardrobe to last a lifetime. So treat trends with a pinch of salt and try to build a sustainable closet.
Remember, you have a choice. Instead of going for a big brand claiming to be ethical, choose a small brand that applies sustainability to every aspect of their business and is transparent about their practices.
Obviously, we should embrace and applaud the shift into eco-consciousness brands try to introduce. However, we do need to be mindful if this change comes from a good heart or just a marketing opportunity. Because it’s not about following the trends, but actually implementing changes. And the change must come from the core.