Greenwashing: What to Look for in Fast Fashion

Greenwashing: What to Look for in Fast Fashion

As the world takes climate change more seriously every day, more companies are taking more and more green initiatives.

From fast fashion brands like Boohoo and Asos to supermarkets like Asda, the legitimacy of their sustainability is being questioned.

Simply put: are they really invoking eco-positive change, or are they just distracting us from unethical treatment of people and the planet?

fast fashion clothes rack

What is greenwashing?

Coined by environmental activist Jay Westerveld, “greenwashing” can be broadly defined as when a company gives its customers the illusion that it cares about the planet and people, when in reality their actions do not correspond to their claims.

Due to the lack of regulation, companies are able to make unsubstantiated claims about their sustainability initiatives without having to disclose other areas of their business or the full extent of their claims.

This results in customers believing they are buying from a green company or using an eco-friendly service, when that is simply not the case.

As Peter Durrant, Head of Marketing at BAM, explains, “Greenwashing is the result of brands simply doing a check mark exercise or trying to capitalize on a trend to attract people.”

This leaves truly sustainable, and often smaller, businesses feeling the brunt of these tactics.

As ethical children’s brand Boy Wonder’s Ismay Mummery states:

“Just look at the survey results which recently showed that many people ranked Amazon, Primark and H&M as the most sustainable. These tactics also serve to distract from the very unsustainable things these brands do and what “They don’t want us to think. Like overproduction, incineration or destruction of returned inventory, or unethical labor practices. Small brands like mine can’t compete with the juggernaut of their marketing and their low prices which do not reflect the true social and environmental cost.

  • Learn more about greenwashing in our explainer

clothes on a rail with sale tag on it

“”Small brands like mine can’t compete with their marketing juggernaut and low prices that don’t reflect the true social and environmental cost.””

As Daniel Hemsley, co-founder of The Beagle Button, puts it, “…fast fashion brands that aren’t sustainable at all trying to cash in on the good intentions of conscious consumers are really undermining the incredible work that truly sustainable brands do. do to make conscious consumption the norm.

Instead of rewarding consumers for trying to reduce their impact with a positive choice for the planet, they trick and manipulate them into buying an inferior product that negatively impacts the planet.

Ultimately, companies only use greenwashing as a marketing ploy to make customers feel better about their purchases – something that becomes all the more obvious when it comes to fast fashion.

  • Learn more about the impacts of fast fashion with our explainer

hand holding a sheet of paper in front of a forest

How to spot greenwashing in fast fashion brands

It is possible to avoid greenwashing – once you know where to look – and once companies are called out for greenwashing, it really hurts integrity and brand image.

Luckily for us, some of the best ethical fashion brands have great advice on what to look for when buying sustainable.

1. Do research – or use tools that do research for you

Education is one of the best ways for buyers to guard against greenwashing: but by knowing what you want from a product and at what price.

There are many great services to help consumers shop sustainably, one of which is the Beagle Button.

As co-founder Daniel says, “No one would buy a product with a label that said ‘Made with child labor’ or ‘Waste from this product contaminates the water we drink and the food we eat’. ” This is how The Beagle Button was born – to empower users to shop based on their morality.

The Beagle button is a staple for anyone who shop online, like most fast fashion shoppers, as the Chrome extension works by highlighting the pros and cons of the product, while recommending more sustainable alternatives.

  • Learn more about the Beagle button here

Sam Mabley, founder of ethical fashion brand Yes Friends, and Boy Wonder’s Ismay Mummery recommend the Good On You app as an easy way to check the overall ethics and sustainability of the brands you buy from.

close up of hands typing on a keyboard

2. Certificates

At pebble, we firmly believe that accreditations are the best way to guarantee that what brands say is authentic, because they are backed by a verified and external source.

The founder of sustainable clothing brand Chariklo, Linda, suggests keeping an eye out for accredited certifications:

“…if they can’t provide an answer, avoid them! Don’t forget to ask about ethical standards as well as sustainability.

“This is an important and complex subject; not all organic products are produced in a sustainable way (i.e. many growers do not use closed loop water supply systems, which ensures low water consumption and pollution nothing) ; and many plantations producing new so-called sustainable plant-based fabrics have done so at the expense of local ecosystems (think palm oil and how plantations have been responsible for the massive destruction of large areas of forest tropical).

Ultimately, any brand can boast of sustainable efforts, but genuine eco-businesses will want to display their credentials so you know they’re legit.

Not sure what certifications to look for? Check out our 12 sustainable fashion certifications to look out for when shopping.

Boy Wonder’s Ismay Mummery also recommends checking to see if the company has won any sustainability awards or is featured in any reports to ensure it’s not “green symbolism.”

hand holding a phone, with a recycling symbol

3. Change of system

Fast fashion is a symptom of linear consumption patterns. What makes it “fast” is the idea that what is bought can be thrown away and replaced.

This replaces a circular consumption model, in which products can be reused, upcycled, or upcycled into something new.

Teemill CEO Mart offers this advice:

“Truly dealing with sustainability means facing the fact that the model itself has to change. Instead of trying to persuade people that a take, make, and throw away model as usual can be made less bad, by designing products from the start to come. directly returned and redone is the first step towards the end of the waste cycle; because designing waste saves money that can be used to fund renewable energy or plastic-free packaging and solve real supply chain problems for good.

“The model works fully, or not at all, because participating in a circular model and then cutting corners gets you back to where you started, linear consumption and waste. be encouraging.”

So if companies are not going against the traditional way of consumption or offering alternatives, they are more likely to be greenwashing because they are not reducing waste.

Especially since waste is one of the biggest problems of our time, in the form of plastic or excess materials, to the side effects of pollution.

  • Discover the amount of plastic in our clothes

This is echoed by Peter Durrant, Head of Marketing for ethical clothing brand BAM:

“Using the massive resources they have in terms of funding and innovation to drive change on a larger scale, designing clothes with recyclability in mind, investing in the recycling systems needed to deal with all textile waste that they create and also making it their whole corporate mindset, not just a range. We’ve been doing all of this at BAM since our launch in 2006, but some of us can’t change the dial, it it has to be an industry-wide change and it has to happen now.

pollution coloring pens made from factory

So now you not only know what greenwashing is, but also how to decipher green flags from red flags.

One of the final bits of wisdom everyone should follow: One of the best ways to disbelieve misinformation is to listen to reliable sources on the subject.

Whether you decide to follow and read our magazine, or the sustainable brands themselves, finding a trusted source that talks about ethical and sustainable businesses is one of the best ways to fight greenwashing claims.

Support these businesses wherever you can – and that doesn’t necessarily mean buying from them – so more people can find truly ethical fashion brands!

If you want to learn more about greenwashing, fast fashion, and other buyer issues, I recommend you check out some of the articles in the list below…

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