Everyone is talking about sustainability these days, and we're happy the word is making its way around the industry, but there's another big problem happening: greenwashing.
So what's greenwashing exactly?
Greenwashing is the illusion that a brand behaves more sustainably than it actually does created by marketing and spin. I say it's an illusion because greenwashing is a term used to describe brands talking about sustainability and what they're doing in regard, but only half-heartedly. Sure, their packaging might be made with 27% post-consumer recycled waste, but is that their only initiative? Typically, brands aiming to achieve more sustainable goals have ethos + values that align with these practices. On the other hand, brands built on past fast fashion models and ever-evolving trends often have values and ethos that are worlds apart from sustainability models.
Sustainability has only been an afterthought for many brands, not a driving force behind their mission or Unique Selling Point (USP). However, these brands now realize that global climate concerns are changing the conversation. As a result, many brands are adjusting their marketing to make it seem like they're more sustainable than they are.
Why is greenwashing so bad?
Because it sets up customers to believe that a brand is actually doing all the right things when in reality, they're just putting lipstick on a pig. Brands that greenwash the hardest consider sustainability as nothing more than a buzzword. It's become the latest in everything we hear about or read about, and rightfully so. A Netflix documentary series Broken has a really great episode on Recycling that is an excellent example of how we sometimes think what we're doing or what we're being told to do is right when in reality, it couldn't be further from the truth.
How can you educate yourself about greenwashing in the fashion industry? What can you do about it?
Reading up on the fashion industry is the best way to understand greenwashing and how to avoid brands that use it. Good On You is an excellent site for learning about fashion brands with sustainable practices and ethos. They have it outlined by category, so if you're in the market for a new sports bra or sneakers, you can check out your brand options.
Prioritize shopping from brands that provide more details and hard facts about their sustainability practices. Some areas to consider that DO significantly impacts the industry is the amount of water saved, carbon emissions, and material composition. In addition to those callouts -- make sure to check and see if those stats they provide are 3rd party verified.
Email the companies you love and ask about their sustainability practices to let them know it matters to you. Even if it wasn't part of their core ethos as a brand, you have the power to motivate change by simply putting the question out there. In addition, let brands you like know that you'd support them even more if their sustainability initiatives were clearly outlined and addressed.
Remember, at the end of the day, as the consumer you hold all the power. Keep voting with your dollar. Show support to the brands that are acting from the heart for the greater good. Hold accountable the brands that are just using sustainability as a marketing ploy. Continue to educate yourself and those around you. The fashion industry has taken its first baby steps in the right direction but the fight is far from over. Keep changing and inspiring the world!
What article, book, or documentary has opened your eyes the most to sustainability? Share it below in the comments so we can keep the discussion alive.