Deciphering Honesty in a Greenwashed World
Nowadays, when you look through a brand's website there are almost always ‘sustainability’, ‘responsibility’ or ‘ethics’ pages. These pages list the many different ways brands are participating in the journey to a ‘greener’ world. But how can you actually know if what they're saying is legitimate, or even reliable? They're using all the right words - but what are you actually meant to look out for to ensure the brands you are supporting are doing their part?
First of all - what is greenwashing? Greenwashing is a marketing technique companies use to piggyback off the sustainability movement to generate profit under false pretences. A brand will use certain terms and slogans to claim they are environmentally friendly or socially responsible when in reality their products and actions don't match their promises.
Secondly - What actually makes a brand ‘sustainable’? This is a complex topic that refers to the ability to meet the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations. For a brand to be considered sustainable, it needs to take a considered approach to the environmental, social and economic impacts of its products and operations.
When deciding on whether a brand meets your sustainability standards, or any for that matter, consider the following prompts and keywords. You can find these on the brand's websites, social media platforms or in articles written on their efforts.
- Materials: Are they using recycled or renewable fibres? Are they natural, organic or synthetic? Do they list fabric certifications for assurance?
- Dyes: Textile dyeing is among the most hazardous processes in the industry. Does this brand use eco-friendly, non-toxic dyes in their pieces?
- Transparency: Do they talk about their production and supply line - where their pieces are produced, factories they use, and communities they support?
- Wastage: How do they deal with the waste they create? Do they work with innovative technologies to recycle or ensure minimal waste in their production?
- Repair systems: Does this brand offer repair, recycling or buy-back programmes?
- Diversity: How does this brand ensure diversity and inclusion in its branding and company? Do they offer a full-size range, made to order or have diverse representation in their branding? When looking at their company and staff - have they been diverse in their hiring?
- Certifications/Sponsors: Are they B-Corp certified? Carbon Neutral? Do they give 1% to the planet or work with any environmental/social organisations doing good around the globe? Do they list Fair Trade, Recycled, Organic or Cruelty-Free certifications?
- Packaging: All brands should be using packaging that is at least recyclable, at best compostable. Packaging should be minimal. It has been reported that around “36% of all plastics produced are used in packaging” the main majority of which is created from ‘virgin’ plastics and goes straight to landfill.
- Brand Size: Smaller brands are often more agile and responsive to sustainability practices, and can integrate them quickly into their company. The smaller product quantities often also mean they are of higher quality and made with better ethical labour practices.
- Third-party rating: If you do not have quite enough time to do a deep dive on a brand, but you still want to be a responsible shopper, consider using the ‘good on you’ app to see how they have rated the brand you’re looking at.
These points should give you a strong foundation of information when deciding whether a brand is worth spending your hard-earned money on. Becoming a more conscious shopper is integral to creating a more sustainable and circular future.
Remember, all purchases you make will support and uphold certain systems - whether that be systems of oppression and destruction or systems of transparency and sustainable practices is up to you.