A Guide to Greenwashing in the Fashion Industry
What is Greenwashing?
In the fashion industry, ‘greenwashing’ is defined as unjustified, misleading, or false claims made by a brand that the products they sell are more environmentally friendly than they are in reality. ‘Greenwashing’ is a marketing tactic used to portray an organization’s products, production process, or policies as environmentally-friendly, but that is not always the case. But as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of industries’ impact on the planet, some companies are tempted to put a spin on their efforts through sustainability claims. In an attempt to gain consumer attention, businesses will focus on portraying themselves as caring for the planet to the public, rather than taking actionable measures to reduce their impact.
Greenwashing in the Fashion Industry
The fashion industry is among the worst offenders of greenwashing, according to consumer protection agencies like the FTC. With greater customer-emphasis on environmental responsibility, the use of misleading marketing has increased. Consumers are demanding sustainable brands that also offer high-quality products. This can lead to brands making misleading, misinformed, or ambiguous statements that support a pursuit toward sustainability. In fashion, these claims can make products, manufacturing, and other business practices appear to be sustainable. As sustainable fashion becomes an expectation, consumers and agencies alike are learning more ways to spot these false claims in the industry. Our friends at EcoWatch have another great resource about greenwashing that you can read here.
How to Spot Greenwashing
With numerous companies adopting a sustainable approach, it is important to know how to avoid greenwashing. Terms like “Eco-friendly ” are not a primary strategy for reducing waste or environmental stewardship. An “eco” range of clothing is often a tiny portion of overall production and doesn’t have measurable standards. A brand will use these terms to achieve sustainable association in the hopes that one initiative will reflect on the company as a whole.
Promoting “conscious collections” is another way many companies are doing a form of greenwashing. The sustainable initiatives around these collections are vague and essentially, just another name for a campaign. There is no standard or definition behind the term “conscious” thus there is no way to determine the benefits.
To become ethical and sustainable, an approach brands need to adopt is slow fashion - this means slowing down their production, and stop putting massive pressure on people and the environment through short-lived consumer trends.
Terms like “Eco-friendly ” are not a primary strategy for reducing waste or environmental stewardship
Choosing Wholesale Blanks
Check for Facts and Figures to Back up Marketing Claims
As the world continues to face a climate crisis, it’s important to seek businesses that work with consumer agencies. Consumer agencies function as the industry’s greenwashing whistleblowers with two main objectives: protecting consumers from misleading environmental claims, and promoting fair competition among the businesses making environmental claims. From investigating product claims like "made out of recycled materials" to supply chain verification claims, these agencies exist to help consumers check facts and backup marketing claims so the customer is able to know the truth.
Look for Certifications
As environmental stewardship becomes a larger topic, industry leaders from across platforms are developing certifications for their particular industry. Having a sustainability certification from a third party is perhaps one of the best ways to authenticate your claims. In the apparel industry, certifications like GOTS Organic, Supima® Cotton, and Oeko Tex are just a few of the leading certifications that consumers should seek.
Focus on the Entire Supply Chain
Since very few fashion brands own their raw materials for manufacturing and production, firsthand due diligence can be extremely difficult. There are many steps, facilities, companies, and partners involved in the production of one apparel item. In order to be truly sustainable, all partners need to be working toward the same environmental initiatives within their industry. To check supply chains and verify environmental claims, many brands rely on third-party agencies for auditing and fact-checking. Third-party verification ensures that unbiased audits are performed under the same standard.