We are officially in the midst of a greenwashing crisis.
Retailers are lying to us and our industry isn't really improving.
So first things first – what is greenwashing? It is the practice of kind of twisting the truth, or really pushing one side of the truth when it comes to your environmental impact to appear greener and hide your bad practices.
What’s been going on?
In July H&M was exposed as a green washer. People in the know kind of knew this already, but a lot of people didn’t. H&M presents itself as one of the greenest high street shops, they say they have their eco line, their clothes swapping service, they even put in a scorecards system to inform customers about the environmental impact of their items.
But basically, the scorecards look at the type of textile, so they present the items as better than they are by ignoring the full supply chain. They also promoted items as using 30% less water that actually used 30% more, and more generally their few small eco attempts were used to shield all their other fast fashion items that had absolute disregard for the planet.
Literally this week H&M have said that the sustainability info they were sharing could have been ‘clearer and more comprehensive’ which isn’t exactly admitting it was a lie – but it’s the closes we’re gonna get! Since being called out they have also said they will remove their ‘conscious’ collection labels and reassess how to communicate the true ethical impacts of their clothing. They will also be donating 500,000 euros to a non-profit sustainability based charity.
So, all eyes are on fast fashion, who else is greenwashing. (Hint: its everyone)
A UK watchdog announced an upcoming investigation into greenwashing by another fast fashion giant: asos, and a few weeks before they quietly removed their sustainable fashion edit from the site. The edit launched in 2019 as a “one-stop-shop” for sustainable clothing such as items made from recycled fibres or sustainable fabrics, both tags which you could search in the sites filter system. Both the filters and the edit are mysteriously gone now.
Ok now for the big one – I won’t talk about it for too long, cos I know if this is something you care about, you’ve probably seen every other site post about it.. but Kourtney Kardashian became the sustainability ambassador for Boohoo.
In short – Kourtney Kardashian is a rich influencer, who never rewears an outfit, flies her private planes about and recently went over her water allowance more than 150% after water conservation measures were put in place where she lives. Boohoo is a fast fashion giant, selling designs for like £4, accused of modern slavery because their suppliers pay garment workers £3.50 an hour... the list goes on. So this pairing actually caring about sustainability. is sus.
Oh, what else?
Pretty Little Thing has just launched ReGain, their app for recycling old clothes. Where you post your unwanted stuff to a charity shop, and get rewarded with discount codes to buy more new stuff from their site! So on the surface – a cute initiative to recycle yay.
But let’s get into it. Firstly, it’s just a scheme to make you buy more, rewarding you with discounts to buy more horribly damaging fast fashion items is wild and it’s still encouraging over consumption from fast fashion brands. Secondly sending clothes you’re bored of to charity isn’t the solve all solution they’re pretending it is.
Charity shops get bombarded with so much cheap shit from these kinds of brands, no one wants to buy it and they end up quite often chucking it out or sending it overseas to other resale markets. The donation of so many brand-new fast fashion items is really disrupting resale markets in other countries now too, there’s just way too much coming in too fast – a lot will still end up in landfill. And again, low-income people who rely on cheap second-hand pieces are finding they can’t actually buy cheap little bodycon dresses or super thin rubbish jackets because the clothing will just fall apart. So basically, encouraging everyone to burn through new clothes even quicker because ‘it’s okay you can just donate it when you’re done’ is an excuse, is adding to the problem.
Those are a few of the recent headlines in this fiasco. And we are still seeing so much greenwashing everywhere. With no real rules or regulations in place to prevent it.
But what can we do about it?
It’s hard to find the time to do your research and we know buying more reliably ethical brands is often really expensive so our recommendations are:
- avoid the brands you know are horrible like the ones mentioned here.
- Shop second hand.
- Wear your items a long time & repair them.
- Borrow or hire clothing if you can.
- And don’t trust brands who slap the word ‘sustainable’ onto their collections with no proof – it’s pretty much impossible to be totally sustainable especially for a low price, so look for brands who say they’re eco-conscious or striving to be more sustainable.
Being transparent about their process and the fact that becoming more sustainable is an imperfect journey generally means those brands will be honest with you about how they make their items too.