What exactly is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing – a term casually thrown into discussions surrounding sustainability, particularly in the fashion industry. And with TTK often mentioning the term in our Insta stories, I thought it was appropriate for us to delve further into the concept.
Bluntly put, The Cambridge Dictionary (2020) defines greenwashing as “behaviour or activities that make people believe your company is doing more to protect the environment that it really is.”
I like to think of Greenwashing as a band aid. Why? Because the practice basically covers up any unsustainable or unethical practices happening within a company. The term was first used by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986, but was a practice long before it was coined, particularly in industries such as power and oil. So what does the practice look like in the fashion industry?
Greenwashing often occurs after a company has been accused of unethical or environmentally harmful actions. A simple example would be a fast fashion company releasing an environmentally friendly capsule collection, perhaps made from organic cotton, after reports surfaced calling them out for burning excess stock. Or after videos of the maltreatment of their workers was leaked, they release a campaign committing themselves to contribute a percentage of their profits to a human rights charity. And while that capsule collection may very well be ethically produced and eco-friendly, the reality is the company’s overall practices and regulations are not. This collection and the marketing campaign that goes along side it distracts us consumers from the truth. Greenwashing is ultimately a marketing strategy, generally used by large companies whose supply chains are harder to track, which makes a brand appear sustainable when it really isn’t.
Transparency. This is what we should be demanding from all company’s supply chains, within any industry really. I’m loving @greenwashwatch on Instagram. Started by Vogue Australia Sustainability Editor, Clare Press and described as “like Diet Prada, for Eco BS”, it is a page which calls out brands who are greenwashing. Oh and definitely check out @mrspress!
While consumers are becoming more aware of greenwashing tactics and the issue of sustainability, brands are going about greenwashing more sophisticatedly. For this reason, I encourage you all to educate yourself on greenwashing tactics. When something doesn’t seem to add up, ask the tough questions. Consumers really do have the power in the fashion industry so be confident in your purchases as we continue to make the fashion industry a safe place for garment works and the environment.
Looking for more information and examples of greenwashing? Check out the links below!