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Don’t fall for Greenwashing this Earth Day

The world is changing and we are in a new era of sustainability. Initiatives such as Earth Day are increasing awareness and educating the public on the consequences of their daily habits. As a result, consumers are being more conscious in their shopping habits with 81% of people believing that companies should help improve the environment. Particularly, there is a movement away from fast fashion towards more sustainable and ethical options. In response, many companies have sprinkled their new collections with appealing green adjectives such as ‘natural’, ‘sustainable,’ and ‘recycled materials’. However, in many cases these adjustments are simply little flower-patterned band-aids slapped onto a much bigger issue. This is known as Greenwashing – a term used to describe the practice of false or misleading marketing to make a company appear more eco-friendly or sustainable.

For example, most of the notorious fast fashion brands have released a collection claiming to be sustainable, and yet have made no fundamental changes to their business model. Indeed, little changes are better than no change at all. However, having a small section of products made in a somewhat sustainable manner does not negate for the hundreds and thousands of products made and thrown away in the opposite way. It is also important to note that while the industry must shift towards more sustainable methods of how the clothes are made, it is also by whom that is equally important. Greenwashing can also describe how companies can claim to be sustainable yet their garment workers are subject to unethical, terrible conditions. This is why it is important for sustainability and ethics to touch every aspect of the business.

GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE

As far as sustainable business models go, Girlfriend Collective are the perfect example. Being eco-friendly is at the top of their priorities while being as transparent as possible about every step of the production process. This is through gaining relevant certifications, using recycled fabrics, treating the harmful wastewater, and using 100% post-consumer waste. This means that the fabric used is recycled and made from products destined for landfill.

Explore their collection here.

‘From fibre to fabric, we need to look at every step and make sure we know its impact’.

REFORMATION

There is an inherent assumption that sustainable fashion is for a select few and Reformation are challenging that notion by aiming to bring sustainable fashion to everyone. A particularly refreshing approach is how every week they release new, limited edition collections. On the surface, this appears unsustainable as ideally, we should advocate for less clothes produced. Yet they focus on small quantities of each product and pay attention to direct data and feedback to minimise waste while also increasing exclusivity.

Explore their collection here.

‘Sustainability is at the core of everything we do – from our factory in Los Angeles to our fabrics, packaging, and retail stores.’

CARIUMA

A prime example of greenwashing is when companies state that they plant trees for every product sold, yet make no changes to their supply chain or impact on the environment. This allows them to claim to be sustainable, yet continue their harmful practices. Cariuma is committed to planting two trees for every pair of sneakers sold. However, their design philosophy is based on longevity and mindful consumption. This shoe brand is encouraging quality over quantity as the key ingredient to sustainability. The materials used from the sole to the packaging are all certified by relevant, global standards.

Explore their collection here.

‘We are constantly evaluating and evolving our processes to be greener than they were the day before.’

Fundamentally, sustainable businesses are as clear as they can be about every step of the production process. Quotes from each of the websites are included above so you can see how companies who are doing the most, not only have dedicated sections of their websites detailing their efforts to be eco-conscious yet include their sustainable efforts throughout every part of their website. Possibly our favourite quote found comes from Reformation’s website – Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2.

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About the Author

Amie Williams, Environmental sustainability and climate change specialist

Amie Williams, Environmental sustainability and climate change specialist

Amie has worked with companies and NGOs globally to improve their relationship with their surrounding environment. From wildlife conservation in South Africa, to waste management in Fiji she has discovered that in order to save the environment, you have to educate the people.

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