GREENWASHING IN FASHION, oh my!
As sustainability challenges become a focal point for businesses, brands in the fashion industry are considering sustainability imperative to their business models. Rising consumer awareness on a number issues such as climate change, human rights controversies, ethical business practices, and negative environmental impacts from production of fabrics has pushed the fashion industry to amp up their sustainability communications. The problem is, that in many cases, the communication about ‘how’ the company is ‘green’, does not match up with the efforts they are putting into their actions towards sustainability. ‘Going Green’ is much more then a trend. This is where greenwashing comes in.
In a study conducted in 2014, the brand comparison site ‘Rank a Brand’ gave a clear representation of what greenwashing looks like in the fashion industry. The study found that the way brands are adapting to this growing trend is through sustainability communication. Of all 368 brands that were investigated for this study, 63 percent communicate in some way about sustainability on their websites. However, only 20 percent of these brands actually published sustainability reports. 30 percent of these brands were placed on the Rank a Brand ‘Greenwashing Alert’. “This alert lists brands that receive the lowest score when ranked against our climate, ecology and labor conditions criteria, which means that the provided information is either of marginal or no relevance and is not explicit about sustainability performance.”
A great example of greenwashing within the fashion industry is the recent ‘enviornmental’ high fashion show Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel hosted this past January. Models were dressed in neutral tones that were adorned with wooden beads and stood in a huge wooden pavilion with lush grass for their runway. Although the setting may have looked ecological or ‘green’, there was no mention of any of the actual pieces being created from sustainable fabrics. Let’s not forget, Karl Lagerfeld was also them man that had a 265-ton arctic iceberg shipped to Paris for a fashion show in 2010. Doesn’t quite scream ‘green’, does it?
When it comes to the eco-fashion industry, it is important to know what your labels mean so that you can sort through the greenwashing jargon that retailers will throw at you. As eco-business points out, “For the mindful consumer, eco-fashion is the answer to their desire to dress responsibly. The deluge of new terms, however, can seem confusing or vague, especially because some of these are not regulated nor standardized.”
Knowing what these terms mean can prompt you to dig deeper, beyond the suitability communications coming from a brand, to the sustainability actions that are put into the production of your clothing. Sadly, much of these actions are simply ‘eco-gestures’ and represent very little actual change in overall business practices.
Here at Sweet Skins Hemp, we feel that it’s imperative that truly conscious brands get more visibility as well as the ability to educate consumers as to what true ethical and sustainable business practices look like.
Header Photo: jacinta lluch valero