Fast fashion thrives on our inability as consumers to engage with our clothes, accessories and shoes. The apparels are produced under pressure to reduce costs while making as many products as possible, this means that environmental responsibility is ignored in the name of profit through cheap and toxic processes.
Through environmental and sustainability activism however, the fast fashion industry is under pressure to either incorporate sustainability into their production line or face social and environmental rejection from activists and the growing number of conscious consumers. As a result, many fashion producers are using greenwashing; a form of deceptive marketing in which green PR is used to persuade the public that an organisation’s products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly.
Through advertising, especially in the digital age, brands control the narrative of how their products are presented and what purpose they might be serving. How can consumers ensure that brands are not greenwashing? Below are three suggestions on how to make sure that your money goes towards good and not the illusion of it.
Identify standardised eco-friendly research platforms.
Shopping for ethically and sustainably made clothing can be difficult because most people do not know where to begin, fortunately there are online platforms dedicated to doing the necessary research for you. Platforms like Good On You, a website that rates brands according to the three pillars of sustainable fashion people, planet and profit is an impartial source assisting consumers to make conscious choices by scaling up the brands they choose. Other platforms like Wearwell, are sustainable retailers who dedicate their time and resources to curating sustainable clothing choices so consumers do not have to find the clothes themselves.
Check the company’s website.
To confirm a brand’s claim to sustainability there are key indicators to look for. Eco-friendly materials are the most obvious choice and many brands use this to attract customers by using natural, organic or recycled materials, but this element alone does not make a brand sustainable. One should also look for measures such as labour ethics, this section would contain policies around the brand ensuring that workers are paid a living wage throughout the supply chain and recycling water in the production process etc. These are just some of the elements to look out for when evaluating a brand’s sustainability clause. A brand’s website is also an effective way for consumers to decide whether or not they will support the brand before they decide to make a purchase.
Look for 3rd-party accreditations.
An accreditations is a partnership between a brand and a larger governing body dedicated to upholding eco-friendly standards. This is to ensure that a company is doing what it claims and in case they are not there is a body dedicated to ensuring that they do. Certified companies pay membership fees and consent to random audits by these governing bodies to achieve transparency, fair-trade and good faith. This is a good way to ensure that the brands consumers support are not making promises they cannot keep and this way trust is established between conscious consumers and sustainable brands.
Although I have only given three suggestions on how to shop and choose sustainable brands, we can agree that there are many other ways to avoid greenwashing. The methods above, however, are the best surface level measures to ensure that new and unassuming consumers are not deceived. Perfecting these methods will encourage consumers to look into more and advanced ways to protect their eco-friendly interests. It should also be noted that these methods are not without faults which is why it is always best to use more than one method to check if a brand is actually sustainable.