Greenwashing. A current buzzword of the sustainable movement. But what does it mean? Put simply, greenwashing is a form of marketing in which companies spin their strategies to falsely persuade their targeted customer that their products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly. Greenwashing is a strategy used to gloss over unethical behaviour which in fact contrasts any transparent methodologies that a company might use to truly become more sustainable. Greenwashing is also used to make more money and build false trust. All-in-all it leaves us, the customer, confused and frustrated when trying to lead a sustainable lifestyle, as we can never be sure who we should believe and where we should actually spend our money. So to those of you looking to make more conscious decisions when purchasing from different companies, this post is simply meant to be informative so that you don’t inadvertently spend money with the wrong businesses. It is not intended to drive you away from your favourite brands. Let’s look at some ways that we can sift the genuine and transparent brands from those who are striving to pull the green cloth over our eyes.
How To Avoid Greenwashing
Consider the company history: Greenwashing is far more likely to occur in companies that have a history of fast-fashion and have conveniently – until recently – never given sustainability any consideration. If a company’s values have not included transparency and honesty, then it is unlikely that they have had a sudden change of heart. Many companies see the green agenda as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. Their marketing will reflect this and can be extremely persuasive at first sight. With this is mind, it is always useful to consider if the green agenda has been a consistent marketing strategy throughout the history of the company, or if it has only been the case in the last year or so. Consider whether or not their marketing gives a full picture.
Of course, it’s always impossible for a company to adapt and update their ethos and genuinely make choices towards becoming more ethical and sustainable but it pays to double-check the claims that a company is making. Only takes a brief Google search using a tool such as Good On You to check the marketing claims made by that brand.
Check out the company packaging: If a brand is making all these claims about how ethical their factories are and how they’re now making garments out of recycled fabrics, then it is definitely worth examining the packaging that these garments are being sent in. Are they wrapped in plastic and extra paper receipts? If so, do you really think that this company values sustainability at the core of their values? This is certainly something to consider.
A Few Companies That Have Been Called Out For Greenwashing (Reviews by Good On You)
H&M: ‘Despite their Conscious range, H&M is still very much a part of the unsustainable fast fashion industry. Its promotion of ‘disposable’ fashion and constant rotations of new trends and products has a huge environmental impact. An increasing amount of cheap clothing ends up in landfill after a few wears due to these reasons.’
Monki: ‘Although Monki are now pushing sustainability, Its environment rating is ‘it’s a start’. It uses some eco-friendly materials including organic cotton. It has fast fashion traits such as on trend styles and regular new arrivals. It has a policy approved by CanopyStyle to prevent deforestation of ancient and endangered forests in its supply chain. It has set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations and supply chain but there is no evidence it is on track to meet its target.’
Ganni: ‘Although Ganni is listed in the Browns Conscious range, Its labour rating is ‘not good enough’. It has a Code of Conduct that covers all of the ILO Four Fundamental Freedoms principles. There is no evidence it has worker empowerment initiatives such as collective bargaining or rights to make a complaint. It sources its final stage of production from countries with extreme risk of labour abuse. It traces some of its supply chain. It audits some of its supply chain but does not specify what percentage. Its animal rating is also ‘not good enough’. It uses leather, wool, down, exotic animal hair and silk. It does not use fur, exotic animal skin or angora.’
And A Few Companies That Are Recognised As Honest And Ethical
Mother Of Pearl: ‘Mother of Pearl’s environment rating is ‘great’. It uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials including organic cotton. It minimises its carbon footprint from transportation. It reduces its water use by using waterless digital printing technology. Its use of eco-friendly materials limits the amount of chemicals used in production.’
MUD Jeans: ‘MUD Jeans’ environment rating is ‘great’. It uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials including recycled cotton. It uses low impact non-toxic dyes in all of its products. Its use of eco-friendly materials limits the amount of chemicals, water and wastewater used in production.’
Stella McCartney: ‘Stella McCartney’s environment rating is ‘good’. It uses some eco-friendly materials including recycled polyester and organic cotton. It has a strategy in place to reduce waste across its entire supply chain. It measures and reports on its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and it has set an approved science-based target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. It has set a deadline for the elimination of hazardous chemicals by 2020 and complies with a Restricted Substances List. It has a policy to minimise solvent-based chemicals. It has set water reduction targets and wastewater is treated and discharged properly. It is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.’