Example: Close the loop campaign by H&M

There’s a lot of greenwashing going on in the fast fashion industry that gives you the illusion of feeling good about the clothes you bought.

Greenwashing Marketing By Fast Fashion Brands

The most common greenwashing strategy that is used in the fashion industry is when a company launches an environmental program or product while its core business is still unsustainable. In the case of greenwashing, the organization pretends to be more ecological and more social-responsible than it truly is. As more clothing with a green hangtag will appear in stores, it will become more confusing for consumers to see what a responsible choice is from a sustainability perspective.

Why Greenwashing? Acting Green is Hot!

In the last years, there is a ‘green’ trend going on and it’s still going strong. For example, H&M and C&A both launched a recycling program where customers could bring back old clothes to the nearest store to recycle and then buy more new clothes. By bringing back a bag of old clothes, customers were promised a voucher for 15 per cent off on one new item. To me, this is just greenwashing to sell more clothes. These fast fashion companies who aren’t usually known for their environmentally friendly business operations are making a profit from the sustainable trend.

Green Materials in A World Of Fast Fashion

Another example is that many fast fashion brands added a ‘conscious collection’, which contain, (basics) items from sustainable materials such as organic cotton, lyocell, or recycled polyester and gave these garments a ‘conscious’ hangtag. Sounds good, those sustainable fabrics! But those garments are still made under bad labour conditions in developing countries for wages below poverty level. So how green is a product with 60% added recycled polyester really?

How NOT To Fall For Greenwashing Claims:

It is sometimes difficult to say when a claim is unjustified. How not to fall for the fake claims? Firstly, I think it’s important to look at the core business of the brand. Look behind the advertising claims and green hangtags, be critical and find out what the main DNA of the brand is. Most sustainable brands are members of organisations such as the Fair Wear Foundation, Made By, or Fair Trade to show consumers that they are monitored by these independent organisations on their social and environmental operations. Sustainable brands use materials with certifications such as Global Organic Textile Standards for the organic fabrics, Lenzing Modal® and Tencel®. When you’re shopping and you’re not sure if the brand is green, you can find the concerned logos of the above labels inside the garment on the care label, or on the hangtag.

Even though most fast fashion companies have a long road ahead towards becoming green, I see some brands really trying to make a change. I think that in some cases their efforts are a step is in the right direction and that is better than no step at all. However, when the goal is to get consumers into their store to recycle and then buy even more, it is simply wrong. A better way of shopping is to go to thrift shops to reuse clothes or research one of the many cool brands offering sustainable clothing.