As concerns about sustainability continue to grow, so does greenwashing in the fashion industry. Surprisingly, a recent study by the Changing Markets Foundation found that almost 60% of green claims made by 12 leading brands in the UK and Europe were unsubstantiated or misleading.
That’s why the campaign group has launched a new site, Greenwash.com, in order to help solve the problem. “We created the website to show the variety of tactics used by brands, from the most egregious to the most [more] subtle,” says George Harding-Rolls, campaign adviser at the Changing Markets Foundation. vogue.
Greenwashing has become a hot topic lately, with the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launching its Green Claims Code in September 2021. The watchdog has set out six main principles that companies must comply, including ensuring that claims are clear and unambiguous, substantiated, and relate to the full life cycle of the product. The EU, meanwhile, will publish its draft green claims legislation later this month, which is expected to include specific labeling guidelines for brands making sustainability claims.
Given the extent of greenwashing that exists in fashion, it remains to be seen how these guidelines are applied in practice (the CMA’s Code of Green Claims builds on existing regulations, rather than introducing new rules, and applies to all industries). “It will be interesting to see if there is a follow-up,” says Harding-Rolls. “There are precedents in other countries [where they have] handed down penalties for [breaking the guidelines].”
In the meantime, the Changing Market Foundation hopes its new site can help consumers be more aware of greenwashing. “One of the messages we want to get across is that greenwashing is so prevalent in the fashion industry that you really have to question every eco-friendly claim a brand makes about a product and determine if this is a real push towards sustainability,” Harding-Rolls continues. “Are they giving you as much information as they can to back up that claim, or is it just marketing trying to appease your eco-conscience and get you to buy it?”
It is important to look for specific details beyond vague terms such as “sustainable”, “eco-friendly” and “responsible” in order to avoid greenwashing. Has a brand explained why they used a particular material and provided supporting data? Do they refer to the entire product life cycle? And what is the company doing as a whole to improve its environmental impact?