Many consumers are learning more about ethical fashion and the importance of sustainable clothing production. The damaging effects of fast fashion on the environment, economy, and garment workers have led to a public outcry and increased support for brands that maintain safer production standards and better work practices. You may have noticed many popular clothing companies advertising “sustainable” clothing lines boasting a variety of environmental claims. But did you know that in many cases, these efforts are just an attempt at greenwashing? You may wonder what greenwashing is or how to spot it when it occurs. Read on to learn more about this harmful practice and what you can do to avoid it.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is a term to describe deceptive marketing tactics that are used by brands to make their clothing, products, services, or mission seem more environmentally friendly than they are. This practice is typically used by large companies that produce a high volume of products without any or very few efforts in place to protect the environment or their workers. To distract from the harmful effects of their production practices, these companies will produce a small clothing line or product made from slightly "better" materials. These goods will be heavily marketed using green-friendly images and ad copy to make the brand seem more sustainable than they are. Then the brand will continue to produce the rest of its products without modifying any of their pollution, unethical business practices, or environmentally destructive business operations. Companies make these unsubstantiated claims, not because they care about the environment, but because they want to enjoy profits from well-meaning consumers who are looking to vote with their dollar by buying sustainable products and supporting ethical brands. It’s important to note that this deception is usually intentional, but can also be implemented unintentionally with brands that promote “ethical” mission statements or services that are legally true but are environmentally unsubstantiated claims.
Why is Greenwashing so harmful?
By using eco-conscious language, marketing tactics, and hot-topic keywords, greenwashing tricks consumers into thinking they are supporting brands or purchasing goods that are better for the environment. A shopper might think they are buying a clean product or supporting an ethical company when they aren’t. In reality, the ethics and sustainability efforts of these brands haven't changed, and in most cases, their claims don't contribute to a real difference. This deliberate deception makes it harder for consumers to find brands that are truly sustainable and produce goods with the environment and workers in mind. Greenwashing also gives shoppers a false sense of progress making it seem like more brands are starting to care about their impact when in reality they continue to pollute the earth. While many brands are making changes to lessen their environmental impact, there is still a lot more that needs to be done to reverse the effects of fast fashion and pollution created by many industries. Finally, green fatigue is a real thing. It can be frustrating for customers to research and second guess all of their purchases, even if they value making conscious shopping choices. Greenwashing increases suspicion among any brands using similar language and marketing that is truly eco-friendly which can cause consumers to discredit real sustainable brands.
How can you identify greenwashing efforts?
There are a few key factors to keep in mind when trying to determine if a brand is utilizing greenwashing or not.
- Does the brand mention specific certifications or use official eco-friendly logos?
To maintain an environmental standard, there are a variety of certifications and accreditations that real sustainable brands can obtain. This means that their products have been evaluated by a reputable organization and have been verified in the environmental practices they claim. Be sure to read the marketing content in advertisements and on packaging to see if they are just using eco-friendly language or if there are legitimate certifications to back their products. Click here to read one of our favorite guides to understanding sustainable certifications and what you should be looking for. https://www.treehugger.com/the-treehugger-guide-to-sustainable-certifications-5119483
- Does the brand have a regular logo or company colors that they modify to announce their “green line”?
A spin-off “sustainable” line from a well-known brand can be a big indicator of greenwashing in action. Some companies don’t want to take actual accountability for their business practices. To give the impression that they are making ethical changes, they may introduce a new “sustainable” product or service that utilizes slightly better practices. Be wary if a company that is known for fast fashion or harmful production processes suddenly claims they are making environmental changes. Unfortunately, in most cases, it’s only greenwashing in action.
- Do the environmental claims made by the brand seem suspicious?
Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. If the environmental claims sound too good to be true, in most cases, they are. It never hurts to do a quick internet search on a product or company to see if they have a history of negative environmental impact. In many cases, there are pages of blog posts and news articles exposing brands that have a history of using greenwashing. Also, real sustainable brands, like Blue Canoe, will openly display accurate data-informed info about their products and practices on their websites. They won't use flowery marketing language or green imagery to try and seem more eco-friendly than they are.
So now that you know the truth about greenwashing and how harmful it is, we would love to be a part of your better buying journey. We were founded in 1994 as an organic clothing company and our mission has not changed. Click here to learn more about our mission to create sustainable, organic clothing that is made in the USA, and fits the way women really live!