Nowadays, we see the words “sustainable”, “eco”, “green” everywhere. All types of companies are using these concepts in their marketing campaigns and communicating innovative and differentiated sustainability strategies. From the fashion industry – where fabrics seem to play the key/only role - to the auto sector – with ‘eco’ cars presented as the only way to go. All entities want to show their growing green footprint.
At first, we can think this is a good sign. Have companies finally understood the real problems our planet is experiencing? Are they finally implementing the right processes and materials to ensure the continuity of the Earth and future generations?
Of course, many of these changes are positive and, in part, reflect the increasing requirements of the different stakeholders, namely consumers who have been a key agent in the latest progress. Covid-19 has also accelerated this process and shoppers want more and more to reduce their impact on the planet, animals and contribute to a healthier world.
Nonetheless, we need to have in mind that not all of these strategies are fair and transparent. We must go a step forward and differentiate between real and positive commitment to change, and greenwashing.
And what is exactly Greenwashing?
The concept was created in 1986 by the American environmentalist Jay Westervelt on a trip to Fiji, where he experienced a hypocrite situation with the environmental credentials of his hotel. On one hand, there were signs asking guests to reuse their towels in order to “save the environment, while on the other there was a vast amount of wastage throughout the hotel, with no efforts to eliminate it. The cost reduction strategy of the hotel was clear, and no real environmental concerns.
But greenwashing can be hard to spot and sometimes complex to assess. In the fashion industry, we are witnessing a growing number of “sustainable” collections. According to GoodOnYou, the ethical fashion sector is currently worth over $6.35 billion and is predicted to almost triple in less than a decade.
Fast Fashion Brands' 'Green' Collections
Fast fashion brands are responsible for part of this growth. They have identified the trend and increasing concerns from consumers. But are the “green collections” created by these big companies truly sustainable? Are they really committed to the environment and implementing transparent social measures?
It is true that part of these entities is already using “more sustainable” materials. But is this enough to be considered “green”? Are we be contributing to a better planet if we buy their items? Sustainability goes beyond this. We need to consider other factors, such as the labour conditions and the whole production process. Unfortunately, the majority of these companies are still lacking a focus on people and more environmental actions from the beginning to the end of their production process.
To become truly ethical, companies should rethink their entire business model. Readjust the production rhythm, social strategy and also reassess the impact created during the different stages of the process. And we, as consumers, must do our own research before shopping, rethinking the way and where we buy. In the end, we vote with our wallets and together we have the power to force companies to change.
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