Greenwashing, also known as ‘green sheen’, is when a company reports to be sustainable for marketing purposes but isn’t making any notable sustainable changes to their core business.
Essentially, it’s when a business creates a false narrative around sustainable practices to mislead eco-conscious customers into buying more products.
It is not surprising that the terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ have become buzzwords adopted for credibility by brands around the world. A comprehensive Global Sustainability Study 2021, conducted by Simon Kutcher & Partners, revealed that over a third of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainability.
In Australia, recent research determined that 86% of consumers expect their dollars to be invested ethically and sustainably (Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA)).
Buyer beware, greenwashing is everywhere. Be sure to do your research before you invest in a product or service of any kind.
FAST FASHION AND GREENWASHING
Whilst increasingly we are seeing fashion brands releasing ‘green’ lines of clothing, only a select few can claim to be truly sustainable.
Fast fashion brands, most of whom are hugely contributing to the 100 billion garments produced gloablly each year, often market themselves as sustainable off the back of releasing a single line of ‘green’ garments. Whilst it is great to see green initiatives in play, a single line of ‘green’ garments does not compensate for the greater damage being done in the world of fast fashion.
Let’s slow things down.
HOW TO SPOT GREENWASHING
Unsubstantiated claims and buzzwords:
It is easy for any brand to make claims of organic, sustainably made, clean and nontoxic, but unless they are verified by a third party, they remain unsubstantiated. There are currently no regulations around the use of these buzzwords, so consumers need to look deeper, and where possible, ask for certification.
For example, the materials we use at LOM Australia include Desserto cactus ‘leather’, which is OEKO TEX Standard 100, BCS OKO-GRANTIE and GRS certified, our Vegatex apple ‘leather’ is SGS audited, REACH and Veganok certified, our 100% post-consumer recycled polyester lining is GRS certified, and our courier service is B Corp certified. We’re not claiming to be perfect, there are definitely areas of our production that need work, however we cross check every decision to ensure we are acting responsibly.
The very first example of greenwashing dates to the 80s when the term was coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld off the back of the ‘save the towel’ movement in hotels. Guests were encouraged to reuse their towels to save water and energy, when really it was a scheme to reduce laundry costs for the hotel.
When it comes to fashion, avoid large, fast fashion, low-cost brands and their green sales initiatives. For example, an apparel company might claim they use recycled materials, when only a fraction of the product is actually recycled. These are often tactics to entice you as a conscious consumer and draw your attention away from problematic areas of their business.
Actions speak louder than promises, and data speaks the truth. It’s great that brands are promising to do better by 2030, but until a company or brand can show you their sustainable actions in motion with hard facts, certifications and data, maybe think twice before shopping.
Sustainably made products cost more to produce for many reasons including cost of ethical labour, cost of sourcing and producing sustainable materials, cost of sustainable shipping methods to name a few. Beware of buying anything super cheap. It usually means that it was mass produced using cheap (unregulated) labour and lesser quality materials.
As fashion royalty Vivienne Westwood says “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.”
AS A FASHION BUSINESS HOW CAN WE AVOID GREENWASHING?
Avoid fluffy sales language and sweeping, general statements about sustainability, unless they can be substantiated.
Be transparent expose the good, the bad and the ugly. Answer customer questions honestly and go above and beyond to find those answers by presenting facts and data.
Source responsibly understand your supply chain and make sure that partners are accredited.
Make sustainable choices at all costs from the outset.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GREENWASHING AND GREEN MARKETING?
It is a fine line that comes down to being able to answer sustainable claims in an honest and transparent way. Whilst greenwashing is deceiving, green marketing is when a company advertises environmentally sound products.
The following list of criteria (Business News Daily) is a great example of what it takes for a product or service to legitimately claim they are green:
- Manufactured in a sustainable fashion by minimising waste and adhering to ethical treatment of workers.
- Free of toxic materials or ozone-depleting substances
- Recyclable or produced from recycled materials
- Made from renewable materials (such as cactus or bamboo)
- Not made of materials harvested in a protected area, or that negatively impact threatened or endangered species with their harvest
- Not manufactured with slave labour or by workers who are unfairly paid
- Does not use excessive packaging
- Designed to be repairable rather than disposable
IS LOM AUSTRALIA LEGITIMATELY GREEN?
At LOM Australia, every decision we make considers our environmental and human impact. Our code of conduct ensures that our manufacturing partners and their suppliers respect environmental and human rights regulations. Almost every single element of every bag and piece of packaging is audited and accredited by globally recognised bodies for ethical and environmental standards.
We are not perfect. There are small elements of our bags and packaging that could be more sustainable and we will continue to work on them.
For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:
We use a number of resources to research our blogs, here are some of the articles we used for this post: