The Truth About Greenwashing in the Fashion Industry

BY KATIE WHEATLEY


As the fashion industry attempts to become more ethical and sustainable, brands are using these concepts to attract more consumers. Over the years, people have begun switching up their wardrobes so they’re more environmentally friendly and are choosing to shop at brands based on their values and practises. However, some brands are deceiving their customers and are guilty of greenwashing.


Greenwashing refers to fashion companies that claim their products are environmentally friendly, when often they are not. It has been rumoured that popular brands, such as Primark, Zara, Boohoo and H&M, have greenwashed in the past. Although further research would need to be carried out to support these claims, it would come as no surprise that a brand like Boohoo would do such a thing. Many have recently turned to social media in an attempt to boycott the company, due to their poor working conditions and mistreatment of factory workers.


It is very easy for companies to claim their garments are ethical and sustainable, but this does not mean they are doing the work behind the scenes to achieve this. If they insist they are ethical and sustainable, they should be at all stages of the production of their clothing. Although this refers to the sourcing, manufacturing and designing of the items, it also refers to their business as a whole. For the likes of many fast fashion brands, even if their garments were sustainable, the poor conditions of their factories and the mistreatment of their workers would never allow them to be labelled as ethical and sustainable.


One of the most common pitfalls for fast fashion brands are the fabrics they use. Due to the use of harmful pesticides in cotton farming, conventional cotton is not a sustainable fabric. Companies should switch out cotton for bamboo, hemp or organic cotton. Making changes like this could increase the price of items. However, research from Nielsen in 2015 revealed that 73% of millennials would pay more for sustainable goods. Undoubtedly, this figure will have increased over the past five years.


It may seem difficult to spot which brands are greenwashing, but there are things that you can do as a consumer. Doing your own research may seem like hard work, but it is worth it as data has greater value than words and you may uncover a company’s false claims. By finding out who are making your clothes, looking at their transparency policies and checking certifications, you are guaranteed to be able to shop sustainably.


Once fashion brands become aware that consumers are actively seeking the most sustainable and ethical clothing, they will think twice about greenwashing. Actions speak louder than words and this type of behaviour in the fashion industry must come to an end.

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