The planet will be grateful for your vigilance: a few words about greenwashing
Hi, this is Kuba (from KABAK ?)! In the latest installment of my series "With balance about sustainability" I look at the phenomenon of greenwashing and its impact on the reception and development of #sustainablefashion. I invite you to read!
Greenwashing has been the buzzword in the last few years and there is probably no person interested in ecology in the broadest sense (including sustainable fashion) who has not encountered it. It can be said that it is a natural (nomen omen) consequence of the ever-growing growing interest in "eco"-products. There is no longer any doubt that sustainable development and sustainable production are the (only right) future that can help us keep the planet in any decent shape. And since this direction is becoming more and more widespread and desirable, alongside companies doing a good job in this matter, there are also those that simply sense another trend in it, such as the colour of the season, and want to jump on the bandwagon.
It's great if companies jumping on the bandwagon actually take genuine actions that benefit the environment. It's worse if a company only pretends to move in this direction and hides under the guise of insignificant actions - in other words, it is practising #greenwashing. Then we can all easily fall for it, because as consumers we often do not have the means to thoroughly investigate manufacturers' claims (e.g. regarding the composition of a given material or organic ingredients used in production) and confirm or deny their authenticity. As a result, not only do we fail to make the changes we care about, but we also pay more for a product that does not carry any sustainable value. In turn, the company acting in this way has the impression that such a shortcut has paid off, and continues its sham activities. Here's where I see the worst side of greenwashing. It preys on the good intentions of consumers while providing no real benefit to the environment.
Fortunately, however, in recent years, developments have been moving towards legal regulation of these issues. In May this year, the European Parliament adopted a directive aimed at combating 'pseudo green marketing' and protecting consumers from unfair practices by producers (you can read more about this, for example, here). At the same time, class action lawsuits against producers accused of greenwashing are increasingly being filed in the US. It is therefore only a matter of time before 'eco-marketing' is tightly regulated and unfair practices are effectively eliminated from the market. While waiting for legal solutions to come into effect, we can try to verify the manufacturers' claims on our own. How to do it?
It is worth keeping an eye out for popular buzzwords such as 'ecological', 'bio', 'organic'.
If any claim raises our doubts because it is vague, ambiguous or refers to irrelevant aspects of a product, we can ask a manufacturer about it (by email, chat, hotline). The manufacturer's answer should usually also give us an answer to the question about the actual value of the declared feature - if it is as vague as the claim that raised our doubts in the first place, we can conclude with a high degree of certainty that we are dealing with greenwashing.
It is worth examining the certificates that a manufacturer brags about.
It can happen, and not infrequently at all, that companies invent and award themselves certificates which they so eagerly proudly display on the packaging of their products. Therefore, if we cannot find any information on the web about the certification methods, the organization awarding the certificate, and the criteria required to obtain it, it is most likely greenwashing. However, it's worth noting that non-certified companies can still be sustainable, as certification processes involve substantial costs that smaller artisanal companies may struggle to afford.
It's worth asking yourself whether an action matters.
For example, if a clothing company boasts about replacing plastic bags with cardboard boxes, and at the same time has production located in China and mostly uses artificial materials for its clothes, then such an action has no real impact on reducing the company's environmental footprint, so again we are dealing with greenwashing.
Finally, to end this episode of the series on an optimistic note, I would like to emphasize that the Polish market is full of niche companies that offer great products created with respect for the natural environment. By reaching out to smaller, local brands, we have a better opportunity to access the source of the product, i.e. getting to know the people and motivations behind it. This not only supports local and sustainable businesses, but also ensures that our consumer choices contribute to real change, and not to an increase in the popularity of greenwashing.