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What is Greenwashing? | Are Fashion Brands Involved?

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As consumers around the globe collectively grow more eco-conscious everyday, the demand for more eco-friendly products increased in proportion. As supply and demand, the most fundamental concepts of economics, are what every business tunes into, there has since been a relative increase in sustainable “green” initiatives by brands from big corporations to small labels. Now, it becomes the conscious consumers’ responsibility to question if the product that they’re spending their money on is true to its sustainable claims or not. While some brands are genuinely responding to the climate crisis and actively taking strides to become more eco-friendly, simultaneously, there are brands who are only claiming to be environmentally clean by painting a greener picture across the customers’ eyes to appease them.

 

Jay Westerveld coined the term “greenwashing” in 1986, back when consumers relied only on television, radio and print media as their source of information. It didn’t take much for brands to give out selective information and control how often their promotions glazed the paid-for screens. Heavy marketing and advertising combined with limited public involvement channels made it easier for companies to brand themselves as eco friendly despite doing the most harm possible. The harm here was done not only to the environment but also to responsible consumers because they were unknowingly buying into the greenwashing. 

 

Thankfully now, the concept of one-sided story telling is over. We can actively make smart and informed choices. So as responsible shoppers, it becomes important to know the magnitude of the word “greenwashing”. So what is greenwashing in the current day scenario? Greenwashing or green-sheen is to make consumers believe that the brand/company is doing more to protect the planet than it actually is. Greenwashing is when brands use misleading information or false claims of attempts to help conserve the environment whilst still following environmentally unsustainable practices. Deceptively promoting their namesake green credentials with no solid proof to back it up falls into the same question of “what is greenwashing”. Brands greenwash by contributing meagre amounts into small eco causes with no intentions of making any real changes in their functioning practices. Big fashion labels and fast fashion brands release one or two capsule collections with eco-friendly fabrics, chemically dyed into an earthy looking palette, attempting to look like they’re making a big switch into caring about the planet, while actively neglecting their ever-increasing carbon footprint. Greenwashing is where companies spend more money on marketing campaigns and advertising promoting their eco-ness than actually investing money into implementable sustainable practices.

 

The only way to filter out greenwashed campaigns from legit sustainable brands doing genuine work is by good thorough research and understanding. Some of the active steps to becoming more understanding of greenwashing are:

·       Going through the company’s website and reading through their claims.

·       Checking if they’re backed with certificates. A few certificates to look out for are GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), GRS (Global Recycled Standards), Fair Trade Textile Standards and such.

·       Learning and enquiring about the source of materials.

·       Checking for chemicals involved in the products.

·       Pressing beyond publicised claims. Eg., when brands say they are vegan- are they using synthetic alternatives to leather and fur? Because if they are, then synthetic too causes heavy damage to the planet.

·       Ask who’s making the clothes and whether they are treated ethically and fairly. Transparency of supply chain is very important and it shows that the brand is responsible.

·       Checking if the packaging is sustainable/biodegradable/plastic-free.

·       Checking if steps are being taken to reduce the brand’s carbon footprint.

 

What customers spend their money on is what they are casting a vote for. Therefore it’s important to find brands that support causes close to heart and those that share the same values in terms of sustainability and ethics. That being said, it is nearly impossible for a brand to be 100% sustainable, so the safest bet would be buying from brands on a consistent sustainable journey bettering themselves for the betterment of the planet.

To easily identify if a brand is greenwashing, just ask the brand directly (via email or public forum). Brands that are potentially greenwashing will not respond to queries or provide requested evidences. As a sustainable fashion brand, zy-lk undertakes to address queries irrespective of whether it's from a customer, stakeholder or third party. For any queries, start a chat or mail support@zy-lk.com

 

Sources:
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/greenwash
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/aug/20/greenwashing-environmentalism-lies-companies
https://www.thebetterindia.com/210776/greenwashing-meaning-sustainable-fashion-reduce-carbon-footprint-eco-friendly-lifestyle-tan42/