As people become more aware of the environmental impact of the fashion industry, they are more interested in supporting sustainable, eco-friendly companies. However, there isn’t a clear definition for what constitutes sustainable clothing, so many brands use those buzzwords as part of their marketing to attract those who are interested in shopping more responsibly. This is called greenwashing; when companies make false claims or overstate their environmental or ethical efforts. Brands rely on consumers wanting to make a positive impact with their clothing, but not having an in-depth understanding on what that involves. They want to get in on the competitive edge that “green” companies have on the market but integrating sustainable practices into the supply chain is often expensive and requires business remodelling. So instead, they make bold yet vague claims to make them seem more environmentally friendly than they really are.
What are some of the greenwashing tactics that companies use?
Fashion brands will often use general statements on their websites, while avoiding using detailed terminology on sustainability and how their products measure up. If they make sweeping statements about their positive environmental impact without any evidence to back up their claims, they likely aren’t integrating real sustainability practices.
Many companies will use eye-catching logos and luscious-looking nature photos in their marketing to give the image of a more “natural” product, but do not have any photos of their actual production practices. They usually won’t have specific numbers or actionable steps they have taken publicly available that allow people to see a concrete impact.
Brands will show off their positive environmental efforts but stay quiet about their ethical practices. Are they transparent about the conditions which their garment workers are subject to? Can they show that they treat their workers fairly and pay them a living wage? If a company is not fully transparent on the treatment of those throughout their supply chain, it’s probably for a reason.
How can you become a more sustainable-minded consumer when greenwashing is becoming more prevalent and ambiguous within clothing companies?
Thoroughly look through a company’s website before supporting them. Find their code of conduct and look for published statistics on their environmental efforts. Look for transparency around their factory conditions and treatment of workers.
Use one of these brand directories to find truly ethical and sustainable companies. Slow-fashion-movements Remake and Zerrin both have extensive brand directories that break down the impact of large fashion companies on people and the planet. Remake even gives each brand a score out of 100, so you can see where your favourites rank.
Respect the garments you own, no matter how sustainable they really are. If you look into a company you normally support and find out their practices aren’t as ethical as you thought – that’s okay. Instead of immediately discarding the item, wear it to its full extent. Someone still made that garment and the best way to show your appreciation is to wear it and enjoy the item while knowing how to make better choices for your next purchase.
Regardless of how your clothes came to you, the best way to lower the environmental impact is to take good care of them and allow them a second life when you consign them!