The good news: the demand for sustainable products on the rise as more people become aware of our current environmental crisis. Woot! The bad news? Brands are increasingly marketing themselves with terms like “green” and “conscious,” to appear eco-friendly without putting in the time, effort and expense to actually operate as such. This is called greenwashing.
A formal definition for you: Greenwashing is when a brand or company gives the false impression that they or their product is more environmentally-friendly than they really are in order to present an environmentally responsible public image.
This can apply in any industry, and with increasing prevalence, it’s getting harder to know if something is as sustainable as it seems. To help sort through the marketing shenanigans:
here are 3 ways to spot greenwashing:
#1 Check for specifics
Creating a more sustainable product, tracking the supply chain and adjusting operations to reduce waste it is A LOT of extra work and expense (trust me, I know). Factories and suppliers notoriously lack transparency. Using sustainable production methods cost more time and money. So any brand who has actually put in the work will proudly have the details listed on their site, sharing their process and the concrete steps they’ve taken towards sustainability.
If the only thing a brand has to say is ambiguous terminology, like “using sustainable materials” or “always eco-conscious and ethical,” it’s a red flag that they’re greenwashing.
#2 Ask questions of brands
If you can’t find specifics listed, then ask for them. If something seems too good to be true, it might be. Contact the brand for more information. For example: A dress made from “sustainable material” (which I saw on a recent H&M commercial). What does that actually mean? What’s the fiber content? What makes it sustainable? How is the fabric produced? We need more information here. Any brand doing the work will be able to tell you. If they’re vague, defensive or silent, it’s a red flag.
#3 KEEP A Brand’s REP IN MIND
If a brand has the reputation of poor sustainability or being fast fashion and suddenly advertises sustainable/eco-friendly products, proceed with caution. If these fast fashion brands have a “green collection” or “sustainable product” that costs the same as their other stuff, it’s a red flag. Sustainability costs $$, so anything truly more eco-friendly shouldn’t cost fast-fashion prices.
The fast fashion business model functions on pumping out a massive quantity of cheap clothes into the market. In of itself, this model is an environmental disaster. It produces large amounts of waste, enormous excess inventory and a product with a very short lifespan. To change how they do business would be a complete reset for these brands, something that won’t just happen overnight.
It’s a shame that we need to even have this convo and that brands are using our care for the environment to make sales. To say it really ruffles my feathers is an understatement. But for those of us who actually want to make a positive impact, we know sustainability isn’t a trend to exploit. It’s non-negotiable and the only way to heal our planet. That’s why it’s so important for us consumers to hold brands accountable for the things they say. Make sure their actions align with the terms they’re using. Ask pointed questions when something seems vague or too good to be true. And if they can’t tell you or don’t respond all together? Perhaps they don't deserve your dollar.
Thank you for being in this with me!
x Kristine of Declarative