A few years ago, back in 2017, when Savannah was just starting Savannah Morrow the Label, sustainability was still somewhat of a niche conversation. Nowadays, all sorts of brands, from traditional luxury to high street, talk about it. While this is a welcomed change that we work for, sometimes it is only skin deep.
In times when the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, contributes to deforestation, and creates 20% of industrial wastewater and 35% of microplastic pollution, we know things need to change. Yet sometimes, rather than working on the real change, brands invest in making themselves look more sustainable. That, in essence, is what greenwashing is about.
What is greenwashing?
Cambridge dictionary defines greenwashing as the following: Greenwash (verb) means to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.
The term had existed since the 1980s when environmentalist Jay Westerveld used it to describe Chevron’s marketing campaign of the time. Like the oil and gas industry, the fashion industry continues to use a lot of greenwashing tactics to encourage sales.
These tactics do not always mean saying things that are not true. Often, brands will exaggerate the sustainable things they are doing. Or they will emphasize only the good things while hiding the bad. The common greenwashing tactics in fashion include:
- Using sustainable materials but processing them with toxic chemicals
- Making products sustainably but not paying the workers fairly
- Having one sustainable clothing line while producing unsustainably the rest
- Increasing the percentage of sustainable items while continuing to overproduce
- Not disclosing the entire composition of the garment
- Labelling something as sustainable without showing proof that it actually is
- Claiming that material is sustainable, even though only a part of it is
- Not having their claims verified by a third party
But why is this such a problem?
Greenwashing is about deceiving the consumer into believing that the product is something it is not. Our firm belief is that we deserve to know what we buy and where our money goes. Unfortunately, this is something many fashion brands are making difficult with greenwashing.
There is another side to it too.
Investing time and resources into masking the reality of the industry and appearing better is not helping the industry transition and become more sustainable. Greenwashing distracts us from challenging the core of the industry that we know is not working. Focusing on the little, shallow improvements means we are not changing the norm. We are only finding ways to continue as usual.
Continuing as usual means continuing to compromise our common resources, planet, and people’s lives.
We invite you to take a firm stand against that with us. You may start by learning to recognize greenwashing before buying from a brand. These 10 questions might help you.
Anti-greenwashing questions to ask
Does the brand explain what they mean when using “eco” terms?
Often, brands will use terms like “eco-friendly,” “conscious,” or “green.” But do they say what they mean? Do they provide more information on what they use to make their products more “eco-friendly?”
What materials is the brand using?
Do they explain what the composition of their materials is? Sustainable fabrics do not mean much if we do not know what they are.
If the brand uses sustainable or natural materials, what percentage do they use these?
If most of the clothes are made of synthetics, it does not make them sustainable.
What about other products?
A sustainable collection sounds good. However, it does not mean much if the rest of the brand’s products are made unsustainably.
Who’s behind the brand?
Sometimes, big companies, aware of their negative image, will make a new brand to capture the conscious consumer’s attention. The profits still go to them, so this is an elaborate greenwashing method.
How much is the company producing?
If a brand sells thousands of items every week, they are producing massively. Overproduction of anything, even the most sustainable things, will never be sustainable.
Do they have any certifications?
If a company claims to use organic cotton or similar materials, check if they have proof of this. The best is to check for third-party certifications.
How is the brand supporting its claims?
It is not enough to say that a product is made sustainably. Always ask for more details on how and where it is produced.
Who’s making the products?
If there is little to no information about the people making the clothes, the brand is likely hiding something. No product can be truly sustainable if the people making it are not compensated fairly.
Is the brand ensuring fair and ethical working conditions?
This includes a living wage, safe working space, compensation for working overtime, rest, and more. While most brands do not employ their makers directly, they are still responsible for the working conditions their business creates.
Our answer to greenwashing: transparency first
Our planet offers endless inspiration. There is beauty, abundance, and power in the nature around us. And we believe that the clothes we wear can celebrate and elevate nature.
This belief is at the core of everything we do and why we deeply care about sustainability and life on this planet. We embody this at every step of our production, and we constantly strive to improve. For us, it is not about perfection but honest work to make this industry better.
We choose to be transparent about how and where we make our clothes. By doing this, we hope to inspire others to do the same. Only by doing can we change the industry.
Want to know more about how we make our clothes? Feel free to reach out, and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions!