As the people realize all the issues resulting from our way of “consuming clothes” and the way we produce them, the fashion world follows. AWESOME you may say, but all good facts are followed by the temptation of some brands to use the “trend” to make the consumers looking through another prism and so, nicely filter the reality.
Greenwashing is around the corner, but how can you avoid the fashion brands which do greenwashing?
WHAT IS GREENWASHING?
According to the Colling English Dictionary,
Greenwashing: a superficial or insincere display of concern for the environment that is shown by an organization.
In other words, brands try to look more green, ethical, sustainable, eco-friendly in order to draw away potential suspicions consumers may have about what may not be done or hidden.
Greenwashing exists because shifting from the world of fast fashion to a 100% green fashion industry requires to make a lot of efforts and modifications.
Using this process is way more profitable than making radical changes. Moreover, it attracts customers, solicit trust and create new incomes. However, behind closed doors the reality is far different and it shows how much this is an unethical practice; a hint of marketing and a dash of communication and the hocus-pocus is done.
In the fashion sphere, greenwashing can be, brands fooling people by pretending their stuff are natural, organic, toxin-free, sustainable, yet they are not.
Because the consumers are more aware on things happening concerning the environment, the welfare of workers or the animals, they expect better products, more transparency, and the brands know that. Thus, they set-up green events, eco-friendly social pages, show they “genuinely” care and want to improve.
Sadly, this behaviour makes it hard to actually understand what is going on.
THE 10 UNETHICAL PRACTICES WHICH SHOULD SET YOU THINKING
1.OUT OF THEIR ENTIRE COLLECTION THE PERCENTAGE OF SUSTAINABLE GARMENTS THEY SELL IS LESS THAN 50%
Some really famous brands promote heavily their eco-conscious lines/recylced products but actually this line is a small percentage of their entire collection.
If a brand is sustainable the majority of their products should be ethical/eco-conscious in some way. And if we consider the big brands if they were sincere they would aggressively try to upgrade their process, products and so on.
2.THE LABEL LOOKS LIKE A REAL ONE BUT
Look for reliable certifications. Some brands love to append stickers which prove that it is a green, environmentally-friendly product but in fact they are just beautiful stickers nothing more and no way a proof of a certain certification. You do not have to just trust the brands.
In order to not be fooled learn the real certification labels.
3.THE LABOUR STANDARDS AND HOW THEY PLAY WITH WORDS
We can find the existence of minimum wages in many countries which is very different to living wages. A living wages is what a worker should earn to be able to live decently and so feed his/her family, have access to healthcare, education, etc.
The minimum wages does not mean that it is enough to live in proper conditions. Therefore, brands which shout they provide minimum wages from the rooftops are doing the minimum they can do.
Look for brands which offer living wages and keep in mind that this is hard to regulate for huge companies producing clothes in different countries – some manufactures can be overlooked.
Brands having a fair trade certification have to ensure their workers get fair working conditions and living wages.
4.WHAT THEY CLAIM IS IRRELEVANT
The brand claim something true but simply irrelevant considering the nature of the product.
This is something which particularly annoys me.
The company claims the jeans are vegan but jeans are 100% cotton equal way not relevant! Some brands really like to emphasize things like gluten free, vegan, cruelty-free and so on because it is trendy and it works on many consumers because they are the only one saying that in this range.
Please thing twice when you see those tags – “Is it relevant to my product?”.
5.THE ABUSE OF MARKETING FOR FAST FASHION BRANDS
Do not imagine that a fast fashion brand is becoming eco-conscious and ethical when only couple of aisles are dedicated to that in a massive shop. No, the brand is trying to glow out of this sustainable initiative and to make you forget the rest of the company reality.
Marketing is highly use to deceive the consumers!
Is the brand trying to diversify the products in their sustainable range and to develop considerably their ethical range over 50% and, has set clear targets to do that? Otherwise it is greenwashing.
Because today the brand make organic cotton t-shirts does not mean the brand became ethical – what about the labour conditions, the harmful dyes, and let’s not talk about the water use.
6.THEY MAINLY USE THE MOST UNSUSTAINABLE FIBRES
The 2 most used fibres in fashion industry are unfortunately also the most unsustainable ones:
- The traditional cotton which absorbes a phenomenal amount of water and are often associated with pesticides and chemicals,
Natural does not always mean ecological.
- Polyester which is not biodegradable. Synthetic apparels are the biggest source of microplastic pollution in the oceans.
Look for sustainable fibres like recycled fibres, linen, wood-based fibres like tencel or modal, hemp, organic wool.
7.THEIR TRANSPARENCY IS NON-EXISTENT
A good indicator to understand where the brand stand is the amount of information they provide on their website, via interviews, reports, etc.
If the brand does not provide details on fabrics used, on their factories, their locations, how they ensure living wages, their pollution policy etc. it may mean they are not genuine.
8.VAGUE AND SLOPPY
Some brands give a lot of information but how vague are they? Are their claims poorly defined?
If the brand is really specific in their information it is a good thing, it might means they really do take actions to reduce their impact on the environment, or to empower their employees for instance.
9.A HISTORY OF BEING UNTRUSTWORTHY
Searching about big brands online could be a good idea. Can you find articles about this brand connected to some greenwashing stories, trickeries or dubious values?
10.WHAT ABOUT THE SMALL BRANDS
When it comes to big fast fashion companies all the above information are easy to find but it is more difficult for the small companies.
If a small brand is really conscious about slow/sustainable fashion, usually they will consider several aspects like using fair fabrics, as well as using low impact dyes, helping people of the factories for education, reducing energy waste, reusing their fabric waste to name a few.
What are they actually doing?
You can also look for the information which have been omitted, it may mean they do not focus on those sides of slow/eco-conscious fashion.
Hopefully after this greenwashing guide you will manage to avoid greenwashing from fashion brands 🙂
To conclude, i believe it is important to mention that even if there are couple of brands greenwashing and all of us might have been misleaded sometimes, the idea is not to become totally distrustful and to assume that we cannot trust anyone who offers sustainable fashion alternatives.
Most of the time the brands greenwashing are the big fast fashion brands, but when it comes to small brands, they are genuinely trying to make a good change in the fashion industry and they sincerely believe in the sustainable/ethical values.
And remember, nobody is perfect and everyone has something to work on so you already lost if you believe you can find brands which are 100% eco-conscious.
Try to answer to that question…
WHAT MATTERS THE MOST FOR YOU?
Now that you know, you can look for brands which click with your values and style 😉