Sustainable fashion has garnered widespread attention as consumers increasingly recognise their environmental impact. However, amid this growing awareness, it is important to verify that all brands promoting themselves as environmentally friendly are genuinely committed to sustainability.
Many brands engage in the deceptive practice known as ‘greenwashing’, wherein they make unsubstantiated claims about their sustainability efforts solely to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.
These brands often employ terms like ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ without any legitimate certification, misleading customers into believing they are purchasing environmentally friendly products when, in reality, the environmental benefits may be far less significant than implied.
In the fashion industry, greenwashing can take many forms. For example, a brand might claim their clothes are made from sustainable materials. However, only a small percentage of the garments are eco-friendly. Alternatively, clothing companies may boast about their recycling programmes without disclosing that most of their garments still end up in landfills.
Greenwashing undermines efforts towards sustainability and perpetuates unsustainable practices within the industry. Brands should create their marketing storylines on clear evidence-based facts rather than implying marketing tactics.
Impact of greenwashing on consumers
Consumers seeking to make ethical choices may unknowingly purchase clothes marketed falsely as sustainable. It can lead to frustration among shoppers who wish to support businesses with genuine efforts towards sustainability but struggle amid the sea of misleading advertising.
Moreover, by supporting greenwashed labels instead of buying from truly sustainable brands or choosing second-hand clothes and upcycling options—which often promotes environmental responsibility—customers’ actions could contribute negatively toward textile waste and pollution.
Need for transparency to sustain sustainability
Transparency fosters collaboration for genuine sustainability to combat greenwashing.
By openly communicating about the materials used in the clothes, including recycled or organic materials, brands enable informed consumer choices.
Further, transparent disclosure of factory partnerships promotes fair labour practices and worker well-being. Also, sharing details on the environmental impact, including carbon emissions and waste management, demonstrates accountability in the minds of the consumer.
How to avoid greenwashing
When shopping for clothes, it can be challenging to determine whether a brand is truly sustainable or just greenwashing. Here are some tips on how to avoid falling for the latter:
- Do your research: Look into the brand’s sustainability initiatives and certifications. Don’t just take their word for it and look for third-party verification of their claims.
- Pay attention to the materials used: Sustainable materials, including organic cotton, hemp, and Tencel, are better for the environment and your skin than synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon.
- Consider the production process: Brands that prioritise ethical manufacturing practices such as fair labour conditions and reducing waste are more likely to be genuinely committed to sustainability than those that don’t.
- Costing: Price can also indicate whether a company is truly sustainable. If something seems too good to be true in terms of cost, chances are the brand took shortcuts somewhere along the line, compromising sustainability.
Greenwashing in the fashion industry has become a prevalent problem that affects consumers and the environment. Consumers have the power to drive change in the fashion industry by making cognisant choices about where they spend their money.
By holding companies accountable for their actions and supporting those who value sustainability over profit margins, we can help create a more responsible and eco-friendly future for fashion.
Hansika Chhabria is the Founder of One Less, a sustainable fashion clothing brand.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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