Let's start with the basics, or what exactly is greenwashing? According to the definition, it is a practice in which a company manipulates its image so as to mislead consumers by suggesting that its actions are more environmentally friendly than is actually the case. In practice, this can be simply lying, hiding part of the truth, creating the appearance that the company is doing something special for the environment, when in fact it is putting more effort into improving its image than into authentic, impactful action.
If you want to learn more about greenwashing in general, be sure to read Cuba's article on the subject - here. In this text, however, we will focus on greenwashing in the fashion industry. From it, you will learn how to recognize eco-washing and when to be extra vigilant when it comes to clothing shopping.
It is worth noting, of course, that it should not be the consumer's responsibility to recognize greenwashing, as not everyone has the information and tools needed to do so. The European Parliament has undertaken regulations related to such practices, but it will still take time to implement them. In the meantime, however, you can read our guide on how to buy so you won't be fooled. This is important not only for all of us, as inhabitants of planet Earth, if we want to save our home, but also for small, green businesses, often drowned out by fashion giants. Remember, every purchase you make matters!
How not to be eaten by a wolf in sheep's clothing, that is, how to tell greenwashing.
First, to paraphrase the proverb, from a big cloud a big rain, from a small cloud a little rain. When it comes to greenwashing, the biggest brands and fashion corporations usually have the most at stake. The "fast fashion" phenomenon, driven mainly by chain stores and large online retailers, contributes the most to the clothing industry's harm to the environment. If you are interested in responsible fashion, you are certainly already familiar with it. In a nutshell, it is the mass production of clothing based on fads, located in huge factories, usually in Asia. It involves human rights violations and the use of poor-quality materials and long supply chains that generate a massive carbon footprint. The PR people of such companies are doubling and tripling to warm up the image of their employers, so keep a close eye on their activities.
First tip: simply avoid chain stores.
Even if they have an "eco-friendly" line in their offerings, the totality of their actions do not help improve the condition of the planet. If you can afford it, choose smaller, pro-environmental brands or buy second-hand clothing. Clothing produced in small batches is usually a bit more expensive. We know that not everyone can afford such an expense with every purchase, so for starters, try replacing a few pieces of poor-quality clothing with their good-quality counterpart and thus systematically build a responsible closet.
Second tip: check out the available options.
Those who shout the loudest are sometimes not worth listening to at all. Big brands have huge advertising budgets. When you're planning your next purchase, try to do your research first and find other available options. Search the Internet, talk to your friends. Often, products prepared by small companies that sincerely care about the welfare of the environment and the customer are not at all different in price from the proposals of well-known brands, and their quality is far superior to that of disposable clothes from chain stores.
Thir tip: not all gold that glitters.
Pretty words work on our imagination. Being eco is a new, very clear trend, and marketers are well aware of this. Everyone wants an organic, green, bio and natural product. Find out what is really behind these slogans. Often such terms become a tool of greenwashing, uttered by dishonest manufacturers. What do they mean when they use them? Check whether they have the proper certifications, whether there is authentic data available on their websites to prove their pro-environmental actions, whether they speak openly about their supply chain and practices towards workers at every stage of production.
Fourth tip: don't let the details cloud the big picture.
A very common greenwashing tactic is to try to cover up a big problem with a small success. For example, in the apparel industry, many companies now offer eco-friendly paper packaging. When shopping at an online store, you may wish to pack your order without plastic and ease your conscience a bit. However, an action of this nature can obscure the fact that the biggest source of waste in the apparel industry is not clothing packaging at all, but the waste generated during the production stage of clothing and its huge surplus ending up in landfills in African countries. In 2018, Burberry was caught burning $38 million worth of clothes to keep them from being sold at "discounted" (for an exclusive brand) prices. This is just one example, but similar practices are used by many companies, not at all associated with "fast fashion."
Green marketing: there are also those who do it well
The above few paragraphs were about what to avoid, but we want to end on a positive note. It's worth remembering that there are brands that do it right. Their practices are sincere, ethical and coincide with your moral compass. Attracting customers who are looking for products that align with their green values is called green marketing, and unlike greenwashing, it is a good and desirable thing for companies to do. Using the real advantages of the products you offer in your marketing strategy serves everyone: producers, potential customers and, of course, nature :)
Fifth tip: find your favorites and recommend them to others.
When you find a trustworthy brand, recommend it to your family and friends, mention it sometimes in your social media. Often small brands don't have a big budget for advertising, so they rely more on word-of-mouth than big companies.
What about KABAK?
We, as a KABAK brand, try to do everything we can to make sure the business we run has as little impact on the environment as possible, and we talk about it a lot. No one is perfect and neither are we, but every day we try to innovate solutions that will bring us closer to this goal. We try to be as transparent as possible, so a few months ago we proudly presented a CSR report on our company. We recommend you take a look at it here.
If you are interested in the fate of the planet, make conscious consumer choices. Remember that your choices matter!