Sustainable or Greenwashing? How to Tell If A Fashion Brand Is Green — Or Just Greenwashing


‘Greenwashing’ is a marketing tactic used to portray an organisation’s products, activities, or policies as environmentally friendly when they’re anything but. With people becoming increasingly aware of many industries’ impact on the planet, some companies are tempted to put a spin on their environmental sins. In a show of ‘all talk, no action’, businesses will spend more time and money on portraying themselves as caring for the planet rather than taking actionable measures to reduce their impact.

1. Impressive-sounding initiatives to reduce carbon emissions at head office

    A brand’s sustainability report should show precisely how it addresses supply chain emissions. Good On You uses these reports to evaluate a brand’s environmental impact and give it a score so you can compare brands and see who is genuinely taking steps to protect the planet.


    1. ‘Eco-friendly packaging’ and not much else

    Keep an eye out for brands who promote minimal, recycled, or ‘recyclable’ packaging as a sign that they are reducing waste. The biggest sources of waste in fashion are the textile waste at the production stage and the surplus of clothing being produced.

    Then there are the cheap fast fashion brands that encourage throwaway culture—a business model that can never be truly sustainable. In Australia alone, 6,000 kg of clothing is dumped in landfill every 10 minutes. When brands like these talk about reducing waste without changing their mass production practice, then the greenwashing alarm bells should be ringing.


    1. Check the company’s website.

    What would you find on the website of a company that’s actually sustainable?

    Eco-friendly materials and Specific measures for sustainability and labour ethics: It’s not enough to claim to be sustainable – you need to have actual programs that back up those claims. Some examples of specific measures are: 

    • Ensuring that workers are paid a living wage throughout the supply chain.
    • Reinvesting in the farming communities, such as funding local schools.
    • Recycling water in the production process. 
    • Using 100% recycled or compostable packaging.
    • Using sustainable fabrics (as we discussed) and non-toxic dyes

    Why do brands greenwash?

    As sustainability becomes increasingly trendy and we all start taking more of an interest, brands want to jump on the bandwagon. Understandably, big fashion brands want to bank on that competitive edge and attract more consumers keen on shopping consciously. But no label can become green overnight; it takes time and resources to embed sustainability into all aspects of a business. Rather than work out the nitty-gritty of truly integrating sustainability into their supply chain, some companies use marketing tactics to paint a greener picture instead. 

    On top of that, it's been proven that companies do better when they make us feel better about our purchases. Brands who are genuine are more likely to value transparency and share their progress with their customers. Everyone likes to believe that their hard-earned money is going towards something good, be it quality materials and craftsmanship or supporting rural communities. Unfortunately, some brands that greenwash use this narrative to convey the same sentiments to us without making real change. 


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