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Today we talk about GREENWASHING: what is it, how to detect it and, what interests us the most, which companies practice it and how not to fall for its tricks?
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing, also known as eco-whitening, is a sales strategy used by some companies to show that they offer environmentally friendly products and services. But what the audience does not know is that products claiming to be organic may not be organic, let alone produced using polluting methods. It is misleading marketing whose only objective is to increase sales, trying to attract the customer by offering a more eco-friendly vision of their brand.
Besides not being a new practice, many institutions and sectors resort to greenwashing just to deceive the consumer into believing that their policies and ways of production are focused on good practices.
It is just a method they use in order to sell and increase their income without caring about the user or even the environment. It is in fact a company that has no social responsibility.
Their only objective is to link the product with environmentalism without really changing its environmental or health impact.
We have several examples of big brands such as Coca-Cola, Mcdonals and others.
How does greenwashing work?
To fully understand how greenwashing works and not be fooled, you need to look closely at the product that companies offer and make sure that they are sustainable, because there is a possibility that they are faking sustainability.
Some brands or companies make you believe that they are environmentally friendly, with actions that reflect "organic products and services", but if you look closely there is no sustainability, no products that are environmentally friendly and recyclable.
But how do brands do greenwashing?
a.They change the name or label of their product to make it "greener".
b.They change their brand logo itself.
Their sole aim is to link the product to environmentalism without actually changing its environmental or health impact.
How do I know if it is greenwashing? How to identify it
The best way to identify greenwashing is to question where products claiming to be made with sustainable practices come from. As well as considering the following actions:
- Add the term "eco-friendly", "natural", "green" and "organic" to products or even change it.
- Use the term "recyclable". The fact that a product can be recycled does not guarantee that it will be recycled after a few years.
- Use images or even slogans that are related to nature.
- Incorporate logos that are similar to eco-labels. This should not be done if the product does not have an official certification that guarantees that the product is ecological and sustainable.
- Offering products as 100% sustainable, when in reality only small elements are organic and the rest is polluting.
- Making organic and sustainable products visible, when others that are not are still being maintained.
- Using highly technical definitions that most people would not understand.
- Publishing documents that contain data that are not real.
- Positioning yourself in a specific sector for a product that claims to be sustainable, when in fact it is not.
Examples of Greenwashing
Okay, Greenwashing is all very well, but how does it affect fashion?
As we will now see, it is much more closely linked than it seems and the big culprits are, as almost always when it comes to fashion, the big fast-fashion companies.
What do these companies do? Let's look at some examples of the best-known brands.
With its join life line it tries to "bring" sustainability closer to its consumers, but as a fast-fashion giant its problem with sustainability comes from its roots, that is, its business model. With capsule collections that are renewed in shops twice a week, it is hard to believe that they are committed to change.
But, let's take a closer look at their join life line: if we go to their website we can see products that are made with recycled materials, but as we can see, the percentage of recycled material does not exceed 25% of the total of the garment, a rather low percentage, but it is enough to classify the garment as "eco" and "sustainable".
Another of Inditex's problems, like the majority of this type of companies, is the pollution they produce when using dyes and the fact that their production continues to take place in developing countries, with working hours that are very different to what we are used to here.
For H&M's Conscious Collection, the main focus is on fashion innovation, development and sustainable choices. Every fifth item inspected is made from 100% fossil fuel-derived materials.
In addition, many of you will have seen advertised on television or even by an influencer the "turn to sustainability" that they are giving, with garments made with materials such as orange peel, dyes made with coffee, or trousers that they "re-edit" using patches, but nothing could be further from the truth.
When we look for their eco and recycled materials we find that they use very low quantities of recycled materials and they don't indicate how much of that material is recycled, in short, they are not very transparent.
As for reediting their garments as jeans, we think it would be a very good idea, if it weren't for the fact that 30% of the garments they produce are never sold, which is not an insignificant amount.
In its shift towards sustainability, HyM is also not talking about changing its production model or stopping production in developing countries.
After all, there are too many reasons to think that this is a marketing issue and not an environmental responsibility.
ASOS y M&S
On the other hand, brands such as ASOS and M&S claim that their garments are made from organic materials. However, their claims are called into question when it is discovered that their garments are made from fossil fuel-based materials, with ASOS accounting for 89% and M&S for 88%.
This may not come as much of a surprise - after all, we've all heard of fast fashion before - but what about "luxury" brands like Tommy Hilfiger or Gant? These brands are trying to gain followers on the side of all things eco by once again using misleading marketing.
On one hand, we see how a brand like Tommy Hilfiger "bets" on sustainability with jeans made from 100% recycled cotton and on the other hand we see how this same company refuses to sign the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.
Tommy Hilfiger is not the only "luxury" brand that carries out these practices, along with other well-known brands such as Gant or Ralph Lauren.
And having said all this, a new question arises. But then what happens, can't we buy clothes again?
There really is no common answer or "absolute truth". What we do know for sure is that we have to change our mentality.
How does greenwashing affect fashion ?
It is estimated that around half a million tons of microfibres are discarded into the ocean year after year because of fashion. Synthetic materials are extremely negative for the climate.
Therefore, it is stated that brands and the industry have to take the necessary measures to stop contributing to pollution by tackling the climate and plastic crisis.
It also invites consumers to think twice before buying a garment and to question the integrity of the shops.
Using this greenwashing strategy only creates people getting products that are not exactly what they are looking for and do not meet their sustainability requirements, which is the real reason for their purchase, to look for clothes that do not pollute.
Moreover, it stops the effort made by other brands, which is to have the initiative to propose another alternative to replace fast fashion garments. It creates a negative and erroneous image of this throwaway production.
How to avoid Greenwashing ?
To find out how to avoid this, we will explain in detail how to avoid falling into the hands of greenwashing:
Pay attention to the green packaging
The colour green, as well as the words "ecological", "natural", "green" and "sustainable" are used to give the illusion that the product is environmentally friendly. Indeed, the colour green refers to nature and all that goes with it.
That is why a person who is really involved in sustainability will constantly consume such products. In reality, the company that manufactures them does not promote environmental care.
Look at the composition of the products you consume
Look closely at the label where the components of the product you want to buy are reflected. Often companies use the word "free" to distract the consumer from inspecting the composition.
In cosmetics, they usually focus on the natural active ingredient, creating a false illusion that the product is not produced with toxic chemicals. Here are some of the ingredients to avoid in your products:
- Polyethylene Glycol Compound (PEG)
- Among others
Beware with the fake labels
Some brands nowadays claim to be eco-friendly and have a label with green logos or elements similar to official certifications. However, some element of green on the label referring to eco-friendly and sustainable is not enough to fully trust the product.
You should only trust the official labels generated by the European Ecolabel (EEE) or the organic logo for organic food produced and marketed in the EU.
What are the consequences of greenwashing?
Greenwashing is a technique that misleads the consumer; however, in the long run this can be discovered and can be detrimental to the company. Therefore, it is not advisable to apply this practice, and if you do not really promote environmental protection, you should not make the user believe otherwise.
The consequences are very serious, not only for the environment, but also for the customer's trust. The consequences that stand out the most are the following:
- It generates environmental problems: it does not contribute to the protection of the environment, nor to improving the lifestyle of the citizen. It only covers up negative actions with false information.
- It deceives the consumer: the objective of this practice is to sell the consumer a product with characteristics that it does not have.
- Public mistrust: when a brand is found to be lying to sell its products, the trust that people have in green and environmentally friendly products is lost. In addition, it creates total mistrust of the company and the other companies in the sector.
The new mentality
When it comes to buying, we must always measure whether it is a compulsive purchase or whether, on the contrary, we really need that garment.
When the time comes to add new items to your wardrobe, there are several things you should keep in mind:
First of all, we are all "fashion victims" from time to time and that's OK!!!
We want to teach you how to evaluate a garment in the most objective and environmentally friendly way, but this doesn't mean that you can't buy that garment you like so much.
Before buying a new garment we should ask ourselves a series of questions to help us not to make a hasty decision.
- Is the garment we want to replace irreparable? Before throwing that garment away, we should try to repair it by fixing that seam or decorating it with a cool patch.
- Have you considered the option of second hand? The most sustainable garment is the one that's already made, so if you can find those new trousers you need because of the pounds of quarantine try to find them second hand first.
- Is that piece of clothing you want to buy a dressy outfit that you're only going to wear once a year? Try Ecodicta's circular wardrobe and renew your wardrobe with fashion-sharing!
Once all these questions have been raised and it is clear that what we need is something new, there are other points to consider when it comes to buying.
At this point you might be thinking how heavy it is to buy sustainable and that it is almost easier to have an engineering, hehe. It is true that it is a lot of information and it can seem a bit overwhelming.
But it is also true that the way we dress says a lot about us and with some tips it is easier to buy clothes with sustainable and fair trade materials and feel much better about yourself.
We want to buy!
What should we consider when buying sustainable fashion?
The first thing we should look at is the materials used, we should try to look for the most sustainable materials that also favour the circular economy.
With regard to the materials we will be helping you little by little so that you know which are the most respectful with the environment.
But we can tell you one thing in advance: don't be fooled by names like organic cotton, premium organic cotton or vegan cotton. The cotton must be organic and with a certificate, GOTS, or recycled, with GRS. Anything else is greenwashing, which we should avoid.
As for the origin of production, we are also clear, we like to support local production and buy Km0 garments.
But it is also true that it is difficult to find big brands that produce locally. On the other hand, it is difficult to find big brands that openly say where and how they manufacture, as most of them do so in developing countries, offering very precarious conditions to their workers (although they will try to disguise it as much as they can).
In the face of this, we recommend that companies that are truly committed to workers' rights are not afraid to hide it - indeed, they are proud of it. One tip is to look for the Fair Wear Foundation label that guarantees decent working conditions.
Now we have a series of tips and clarifications to be able to look for and find our sustainable garments by ourselves, but you might be thinking, can't you tell me some shops or shortcuts?
Sustainable multi-brand spaces
This growth in sustainable fashion means that people have their needs and want all the sustainable shops in the same space, which is called a multi-brand space or Marketplace.
- One of them is Ethical Time, where we can find practically any garment we need and we make sure that they meet all the criteria mentioned above. We can find all kinds of products such as trousers, accessories, trainers and a long list of other products.
- Another marketplace that we love is Sukisimo, we don't have much more to add as there is a huge offer of clothes and articles that are respectful with the planet.
If you want to find some sustainable clothing brands and explore on your own, here are some others like Ecoalf, Timpers, Vesica Piscis, Patagonia and Clotsy Brand, that's us.
This is the end of today's article, I hope you have learned and feel a little more prepared to detect greenwashing and find truly sustainable garments.
Now that you know what greenwashing is, you should pay attention to the labels of the products you consume and make sure that the product is truly sustainable. As well as checking the labels on the clothes you buy.
In addition, it is important to note that companies should consider not using this practice and be really honest with the service or product they offer. Taking into account that their practices should preferably be respectful and should not contribute to pollution.
Indeed, not all companies that promote environmental protection and care are misleading, but if greenwashing continues it will be very difficult for the individual to trust these types of products.
If you liked it, have any questions or know of any brand or marketplace that we haven't mentioned, leave it in the comments. And you can always follow us on social media and join the Clotsy Brand family.