• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

What even is greenwashing, anyway?

ByAnna Claire Shuman

Mar 24, 2023
Greenery surrounding a clothing store.

Greenwashing, or marketing a product as more sustainable without actually taking significant efforts to make a more sustainable product, has become a hot-button issue recently, especially in the fashion world.

It’s unsavoury to imply that sustainability is a trend, but it’s also true.

In an age where more consumers than ever are looking into the idea of “conscious consumption,” brands are finding more success with products marketed as eco-friendly or sustainable.

This started, as all things in fashion do, on the luxury runways. Brands like Stella McCartney, Prada, Dior, and Alexander McQueen have introduced initiatives to cut down on animal product use and emphasise their use of recycled materials like nylon and polyester. However, these luxury houses have the benefit of time between collections; with dedicated customer bases which allow them to take months or years to develop new techniques and sustainable initiatives. Last year, ASOS and Boohoo were at the centre of a greenwashing investigation from the UK government. This resulted in ASOS pulling down their “responsible edit,” but Boohoo didn’t change the marketing of their “ready for the future” range, which was also investigated by the UK government.

In the US, H&M was sued for their “conscious choice” marketing; the fast-fashion giant was accused of marking up certain products under the guise of sustainability, when the clothes are made of the same poly blend as the rest of their clothing. These investigations are ongoing, so it’s unclear if any of these brands are guilty of falsely advertising to their customer base, but the fact that investigations were opened at all is enough to warrant a more sceptical approach to these eco-friendly marketing campaigns by big brands. Inditex, the parent company of Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, recently announced their “close the loop” initiative, where customers can drop their used clothes off in a store where they will allegedly be given a second life.

Image Credit: “Fast-Fashion giant H&M (world’s second-largest clothing manufacturer) #Logos of corporate behemoths” by Dana L. Brown is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

This isn’t to say that all big brands are faking their commitment to sustainability or even that those fast-fashion conglomerates aren’t. There are plenty of brands who have been working on making their whole operation more eco-friendly; Reformation, Patagonia, and Uniqlo have all made significant steps to lower their carbon footprint. It takes a discerning customer to be able to see through marketing, and these brands hope that you take their promises at face value.

Hopefully, as this marketing is cracked down on and exposed by the government or civil lawsuits, brands will be forced to either deliver on their promises or remove the so-called “eco-friendly” tag from a pair of polyester trousers made in a sweatshop.

Image: “Farm (sustain fashion)” by manarh is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.