Greenwashing in fashion: what to steer clear of

If you’re new to the world of sustainable fashion, the term ‘greenwashing’ might not resonate with much meaning. No, it’s not an extremely extra approach to colour-sorting your laundry, rather, greenwashing refers to brands that intend to pull the wool over your eyes concerning their ecological impact via crafty diversion tactics.

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It’s a major problem at the moment, especially as some fashion brands, having cottoned onto the fact that many of us are looking to shop more sustainably, are not exactly transparent about their practices.

Hello! Fashion caught up with sustainable fashion expert Natalie Binns to find out everything that you need to know about greenwashing.

What exactly is greenwashing in fashion? 

“Greenwashing is a type of marketing that businesses use to convince their customers that they are more eco-friendly or ethical than they actually are.”

How can you identify greenwashing?

“There are a couple of ways to spot greenwashing, firstly if it looks too good to be true then it probably is. Look for data-driven evidence to back up any claims a brand is making. Vague terms like ‘conscious’, ‘responsible’, or ‘sustainable’ without an explanation of what these mean are big red flags,” Natalie explains.

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“Secondly, if the claims are coming from a huge global brand that is mass producing trend-led clothing, that’s a sign that the business model as a whole isn’t sustainable so any ‘green’ initiatives the business is implementing are likely a drop in the ocean compared to the damage they are causing.”

What does truly sustainable fashion look like? 

Avoid Greenwashing

“It’s difficult to define ‘truly’ or 100% sustainable fashion as all new fashion has an impact on the environment. To reduce the impact of our clothing we need to make the most of it which means only buying what we need, rewearing it as much as possible, repairing it and recirculating it when we are finished with it. Borrowing, swapping and buying second hand are all more sustainable ways to enjoy fashion.”

How can you avoid greenwashing? 

“For consumers, the best way to avoid greenwashing is to read the fine print. Don’t just take what a brand is saying at face value, look for evidence of what they’re saying and ask questions,” Natalie advises.

“Don’t forget that there is more to sustainability than environmentally friendly materials. For a business to be sustainable they should be treating garment workers fairly and paying a living wage. Use websites like Good On You which ranks brands according to their sustainability efforts from both an environmental and social perspective.”

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