How to greenwash fashion – and how to spot it

These days, sustainability is on trend. But the trend cycle of fast fashion isn’t sustainable.

Challenging the big brands on sustainability: small and medium enterprises make up half of the businesses in the fashion eco-system.

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We like a bit of pre-loved clothing:

Slow fashion… second-hand fashion… – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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And we like to donate our old clothes to charity – but where exactly do they go?

Julian Epp, writing in the Nation follows the trial – and then asks a few awkward questions: click on the link for more from an excellently researched piece:

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Greenwashing Fashion

These days, sustainability is on trend. But the trend cycle of fast fashion isn’t sustainable.

Around 15 million garments per week flow through Kantamanto, one of the largest secondhand clothing markets in the world. The shopping center is located in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and is stocked with once-donated clothing that arrives in hundred-pound bundles, mostly from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. Retailers take out substantial loans to purchase the bundles, hoping to find worthwhile garments in sellable condition. Yet almost half of what is bought is thrown away.

The excess clothing waste piles up in the streets, on the beaches, and in dumpsites around Accra. One landfill in Old Fadama sits next to a river and is over 30 feet tall, containing mostly secondhand clothing from the market. The water near the dump is toxic, causing the surface to ripple and bubble as if it were constantly raining. Some of this foreign clothing flows into the sea, wrapping around itself and other waste to create tentacles up to 25 feet long. These tangled masses put local fishermen in danger, ensnaring their boats’ motors and weighing down nets, which can leave them stranded or capsized. Clogged gutters from the clothing waste lead to flooding and standing water, even after only a light rain, increasing the risk of cholera and malaria for those in the community.

Why is there so much secondhand clothing? Increasingly, it’s built into the way we dress: fast fashion, the trendy, mass-produced clothing that can be made quickly and at low cost, has had disastrous consequences for the planet, while making the industry more profitable than ever. In 1960, around 95 percent of American clothing was made in the United States. As this labor began to be outsourced overseas, brands were able to cut costs while substantially raising production levels. By 1989, The New York Times coined the term “fast fashion” in reference to the 15-day period between an idea’s inception and when the physical garment hit the racks. The Times described the target market as “young fashion followers on a budget who nonetheless change their clothes as often as the color of their lipstick.”

Since then, fashion has only gotten faster… Thanks to fast fashion, the average person purchased 60 percent more clothing in 2014 compared to 2000, while each garment was kept for only half as long, according to a study by McKinsey & Company.

Liz Ricketts, cofounder of the OR Foundation, a charity that advocates for alternatives to the current wasteful fashion model, has been observing the secondhand clothing trade and its impact on Ghana for a decade. Fueled by colonialism and unsustainable business practices, the production of waste has only been increasing. “I saw how the acceleration of fast fashion was creating a toxic disposable culture across the entire industry,” Ricketts told The Nation. “Not just at the fast fashion level, but at every price point and at every segment of the industry.”

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Here’s an example of ‘greenwashing’ – where promises are made but there’s no guarantee of anything happening:

Maisie Williams x H&M – YouTube

Maisie Williams Joins H&M as ‘Sustainability Ambassador,’ But Both Face Greenwashing Claims

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With a handy definition from the Green Queen:

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Greenwashing In Fashion Is On The Rise, Here’s How To Spot It

There’s been an increasing amount of buzz around the terms ‘sustainable’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘natural’, in everything from fashion to food. Unsurprisingly, this comes at a time when we’re all becoming more conscious of what we buy. In particular, the rising interest in sustainability amongst Millennial and Gen Z consumers, coupled with their increase in purchasing power, is influencing businesses to take notice. However, rather than truly going green, certain brands are taking the greenwashing route instead. It’s tough enough for fashion folk to navigate the greenwashing maze, so naturally, it makes everyday consumers confused! Read on for how you can spot and avoid fashion’s ‘fake news’ trap.

In a nutshell, greenwashing is a tactic that companies use to ‘appear’ more sustainable than they actually are. This could mean making false claims about green production practices or even purposefully being vague with facts. The term has been around since the 1960s, but American environmentalist Jay Westerveld popularised it in 1986.

How do I spot it?

Greenwashing can come in many forms. Here’s a few indicators you can look out for…

Greenwashing In Fashion Is On The Rise, Here’s How To Spot It

What Is Greenwashing In Fashion And How To Spot It | British Vogue

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Here’s a great overview in Forbes:

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Some Of The Favorite Greenwashing Tactics Of Clothing Companies

The fashion industry has proven to be adept at spin. It has an enormous environmental footprint, using up more energy than aviation and shipping combined. Thankfully, the public isn’t always gullible. One survey of EU citizens found that 81% don’t trust clothing products’ claims to be environmentally friendly.

But the abundance of information from all sides makes it hard to sort through the exaggerations and the understatements. Here are a few of the ways that clothing companies attempt to portray themselves as more sustainable than they really are, according to the recent “Fossil Fashion” report of the Changing Markets Foundation…

Some Of The Favorite Greenwashing Tactics Of Clothing Companies

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Finally, again from Catherine Erdly writing in yesterday’s Forbes:

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Earth Day 2021: Independent Fashion Brands Challenge Industry Greenwashing

At the current rate of growth, by 2030 annual global apparel consumption could rise by 63% – the equivalent to more than 500 billion additional t-shirts. 

Environmentally, this is unwelcome growth from an industry that already has “a far-reaching impact on the natural environment, from the extraction of raw materials to the production, distribution, wear and disposal of clothes” according to the British Fashion Council’s white paper on Fashion and the Environment.

With the stakes, and the environmental impact, growing ever higher, a group of independent brands across the fashion, rental and vintage market have come together on Earth Day 2021 to raise awareness of sustainability issues in fashion.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) make up half of the businesses in the fashion eco-system…

Earth Day 2021: Independent Fashion Brands Challenge Industry Greenwashing

   
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