Whether you’re looking for the best ethical gifts to give your loved ones this Christmas, or making a longer-term commitment to shopping sustainably, beware of falling into the trap of Greenwashing, writes Phoebe Walker.
Throughout 2020, the retail industry has seen a huge upsurge in popularity for sustainable fashion. With more of us becoming aware of the issues and environmental impacts of fast fashion, we are more mindful than ever about our decisions as consumers.
We have taken it upon ourselves to ditch throwaway culture and rock the rework, and by making small, sustainable changes to our shopping habits, not only do we look good, but we feel good too.
According to Lyst’s 2020 Conscious Fashion Report, searches including the keyword ‘organic’ are currently trending in the UK, and are up 19% month on month. So, it’s no surprise that big retailers have caught on – sustainable sells.
But unlike sweater vests or leather shackets, sustainable fashion is more than just a trend.
According to sustainable fashion stylist, Rebecca Davies, “Sustainability is a buzzword at the moment, and it appears all of the major brands are wanting to jump on this ‘trend’. But when you boil it down, the actual act of mass-producing a product is not sustainable.”
So how do you detect if a company’s products are as eco-friendly as they claim to be?
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is term used to describe misleading marketing practices, often through campaigns, that give the impression that a brand or product is more ethical than it actually is. It is a technique often used by large, fast fashion retailers in an attempt to appeal to – and exploit – environmentally conscious consumers.
Rebecca says, ‘It is always worth looking past the beautiful, earthy marketing and double checking a company’s facts before making a purchase.’
There are a number of online tools to help you to identify the ethical ratings of brands and products. Ethicalconsumer.org have developed a research tool with data from over 40,000 companies, brands and products. They also have a wide selection of company profiles and shopping guides, to help you make informed decisions at the checkout.
‘Good on You is also a really good tool. But don’t use a brand’s company page as gospel as to whether they’re eco-friendly or not,’ says Rebecca.
Sustainable lifestyle blogger, Freya Wood, says the first thing she will look at to detect how ethical a brand is is the number of products they sell.
‘Releasing hundreds of new styles a week is completely incompatible with sustainability,’ she says.
She also recommends checking out Fashion Revolution to see a brand’s commitment to sustainability.
According to Freya, ‘Only when a brand can track their supply chain can they actually take control of sustainability production.’
Can fast fashion ever really be sustainable?
Earlier this year, a number of high street fast fashion retailers released their own ‘sustainable’ clothing ranges. There has been some debate as to whether these brands, which are notorious for producing huge amounts of fast fashion, can claim to be environmentally friendly with these reimagined branding initiatives.
Rebecca says, ‘To me, the clue is in the name. Fast fashion is about churning out product after product. So no, I think that a company would have to re-brand as a slow-fashion company and create maybe two collections a year and limited pieces to be classed as sustainable.’
According to Freya, ‘As long as brands continue to produce and sell clothing at the excessive rate we see now, they can’t be sustainable. Whether the clothes are produced in sustainable ways or not, a brand can’t be sustainable if they are dedicated to profiting from excessive buying of low-quality fashion items.’