Greenwashing in the Fashion Industry – What to Look Out For

by Daniela Baker


Greenwashing in the fashion industry is an increasingly common problem. To be fashionable, companies must stay afloat of the nearest trends, and that currently means going green – or pretending to.

To combat greenwashing in general, the sustainability agency Futerra has published 10 signs of greenwashing for consumers. We’re going to cover 4 of the signs of greenwashing you have to especially look out for in the fashion industry, along with tips to help you find real green clothing instead.

1. Fluffy Language

This is Futerra’s first list item, represented by a green sheep. Sometimes companies use very vague terms to talk about their clothing, like eco-friendly or just “green,” to avoid having to back up their claims.

For example, a 2008 ad by Cotton, Inc. simply read “If it’s cotton, you’ll know it’s green (even if it’s pink).” What does “green” mean in this context? The ad showed women lying on a green blanket in the grass, some wearing pink garments, with no explanation of why cotton would be good for the environment or sustainable.

As blogger Starre Vartan was quick to point out, the EPA has found 8 pesticides used in most types of cotton to be possible cancer-causing agents. Plus, cotton uses a quarter of the planet’s pesticides. Just 1% of the world’s cotton is grown organically.

So, while there’s nothing wrong with using terms like eco-friendly or green, companies need to explain what they mean in context. These words have no set meaning and their use is not regulated.

2. Suggestive Pictures

This is another item on Futerra’s list that has been cropping up a lot in the fashion industry. In this type of greenwashing, environmental images are shown to suggest that a product is good for the environment. This is really the same tactic as the one above—keep the advertising vague and hope no one asks for details.

For example, an apparel company might create a line of t-shirts featuring environmental slogans or designs and make them stand out in an ad. But, the shirts might still be made under wasteful conditions, or even in sweatshops.

So, it’s best to ignore pretty pictures and just focus on what you can find out about the product.

Next>> Questioning credibility and spotting imaginary friends

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by wstryder

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