THE PROBLEM WITH GREENWASHING
Our clothes should cover our bodies, not the truth of how they came to be.
Be careful not to fall into the greenwashing trap of brands in order to be environmentalist! Greenwashing means that a corporation or an establishment spending more time and money to marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than actually minimizing their impact on the environment. Though greenwashing may sound like something positive, the truth is the opposite. As the dialogues surrounding sustainability, environmentalism, climate crisis and social justice grow, the term greenwashing plays a crucial role in waking us up from the tales told by the brands.
Lately, we’ve been hearing the words sustainable and environmentally friendly from the brands quite often. However, how many of these brands’ products made from recycled materials and most importantly, how many of them produced ethically? A completely sustainable brand doesn’t only care for the environment. It also considers factors such as equal pay, ready-to-wear worker rights, safe factory conditions and many more like social justice. An actual sustainable brand pays attention to each of these factors and shows proofs of data if necessary.
In July 2019, Inditex shared Zara’s sustainability plan. The most noticeable thing on the plan is that it only focused on ecological sustainability. This ambitious plan consists of goals that sound very environmental-friendly like producing 80% of Zara HQ’s energy from renewable sources and using organic, 100% sustainable materials in all collections by the end of 2025. Zara executives who made the statement must have forgotten to mention how this sustainability movement will affect garment workers and suppliers in developing countries! In the first quarter of 2020, H&M promised they will use only recycled and sustainable materials in their collections by 2030. Then, H&M ranked first in the 2020 report called Fashion Transparency Index published by the Fashion Revolution movement, which examines social and environmental policies, practices and impacts of the world’s 250 largest fashion brands since 2016 and how transparent have been to the public. Considering this data, it would not be wrong to say that H&M is a sustainable and environmentally friendly brand, right? This is where greenwashing comes into play. The lack of accurate data and clever marketing strategies are a major obstacle to clearing fashion’s record on the climate crisis and improving the lives of millions of garment workers. Non-transparent work practices and ambiguous definitions of sustainability obscure the behaviour of brands that do not accompany green marketing plans. Brands say they are striving to be environmentally friendly, but they never mention the antifouling paints entering our water systems, the conditions of the workers, the harm of mass production to the world.
Perhaps the most woke generation on social issues, Gen Z is also ready to splurge on brands that support eco-friendly policies, LGBTQ + rights, racial or social justice. This gives them a unique power to shape the success or downfall of companies. So, now the companies have a financial incentive to look more responsive. However, there is a huge difference between doing something for profit and doing it to support a community, and Gen Z is not easy to play. Brands that prepared rainbow-themed collections during Pride Weeks but did not take any action for LGBTQ + rights were also accused by Gen Z of “pinkwashing”.
The urgency of accurate information is increasing as the fashion industry is being watched more and more closely by activists. Unless brands disclose real information about their suppliers and the environmental consequences of their production, consumers will continue to be victims of greenwashing. Is it possible for fast fashion to be fully sustainable is still a matter of debate. However, it seems that the honesty of brands will be of great importance in this process.
Cover imagery via Burberry