Today the issues of sustainability, ethics and protecting the environment are more important than ever. Barely a day goes by without the topic of climate change hitting the news headlines. As more and more consumers question the environmental and ethical practices of their favourite brands, businesses are trying their best to highlight every single ‘good deed’ they do to protect the environment in the course of their operations. However, consumers must be wary of the authenticity of what businesses claim to be doing.
Greenwashing is a marketing technique that organisations use in order to make themselves seem as though they are an environmentally responsible company, when in fact the opposite might be true. They use big marketing campaigns to highlight any small effort they make in regards to being sustainable, often blowing it way out of proportion and making it seem a lot better and more beneficial than it actually is.
At a time when the fast fashion industry is under heavy scrutiny, marketers have to work extra hard to come up with creative ways to divert our attention from the questionable or outright horrible and unethical practices that the company engages in. And that’s where Greenwashing comes in. It helps an otherwise uninformed consumer perceive the company in a very positive light. They see or hear something about a brand that sounds remotely like they are contributing positively to the textile industry and that sticks in their mind when they are out shopping.
Unfortunately for consumers, it can often be quite difficult to spot when Greenwashing is occurring or if the company is actually following through on their claims. Marketers are pros at dazzling customers and using tricks to alter their perceptions and influencing their decisions. In short, they know how to make you spend your money. And at a time when ‘green is the new black’ in the fashion industry, marketers are exploiting this as much as possible. Whether that means stretching the truth or telling full blown lies.
Even something as simple as branding can alter the consumer’s perceptions. Think about it- you see a brand that uses the colour green, uses terms along the line of ‘eco’ or ‘natural’ in their name or slogan, you are more likely to assume that they are a sustainable brand. As quick as that, your perception is developed.
For example, Inditex, the parent company of fast fashion label Zara, are aiming to have all of their stores 100% eco-efficient by 2020. Maybe these fast fashion brands aren’t so bad after all, you might think, they care about the environment too! But what happens when we look a little closer? In 2014, Zara produced over one billion garments! That means, one in every seven people in the world can own something from Zara. I struggle to comprehend why it is necessary for one brand to produce so many clothes. How on earth can that level of output be in any way good for the environment? Clearly, environmental responsibility is not high on their list of priorities.
For a brand to be truly ethical sustainable, they need to commit to producing clothing in a way that doesn’t harm people or the environment. They need to be honest and transparent and follow through on any claims and promises they make. Ethical and sustainable businesses are serious about minimising the social and environmental impact of the textile industry. They are not just exploiting sustainability and ethics as the latest trend. Basically, they strive to be ethical and sustainable in every way possible during all stages of production- from the fibres, to the factories and beyond.
But the good news is, just because there are some brands that are taking advantage of people’s desire to shop responsibly, doesn’t mean you can’t believe anything that you see or hear. Not all companies are using it purely as a marketing tool. Just don’t get confused or misled by the clever and fancy marketing tricks.
We as consumers want to do the right thing. We want to support socially and environmentally responsible companies. As annoying as it might be, if you want to buy ethical and sustainable clothing, you have to look a little closer and do your homework. Don’t just take everything a brand says as gospel. Learn to see through the Greenwashing and make sure your favourite brands share your values and don’t just want your cash.