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How to Spot Greenwashing in Fashion and Avoid It

Here’s how to spot and avoid greenwashing in fashion so your purchases are really sustainable, from supply chain to shop floor.

A store with a rack of various clothes
Greenwashing industry in fashion is not a myth but we can still avoid it

Source: Hannah Morgan [4]

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As greenwashing in the fashion industry is on the rise, we shoppers should always be one step ahead of fashion brands. While one of the ways to discourage greenwashing practices is by not supporting greenwashing brands, in reality, greenwashing might be pretty hard to spot. But, you don’t have to sweat about it. Here are five ways you can easily do to find out if your favorite brands are telling the truth or not.

1. Knowledge is power

Knowledge is power. Yup, that quote does work on so many levels including when you are out shopping your favorite brands. To avoid greenwashing, we should first get to know what exactly greenwashing is, what are typical examples of greenwashing in the fashion industry, and continually update our knowledge about it. The more you are familiar with greenwashing patterns, the easier for you to identify it.

2. Look for evidence

Always look for facts and figures to confirm claims made by brands rather than taking them at face value. You can visit their websites or give them a phone call. Here is an example of detailed sustainable targets of Eileen Fisher. Besides, you can also look for certifications that verify their claims. These are some examples:

A hand smoothing down a green cloth
Certifications is a valid sustainability indicator, but not the only one

Source: Volha Flaxeco [5]

Mind you, since certifications can be costly, it can be difficult for brands to get certified. Something to remember is that the lack of certification does not necessarily mean the brand is greenwashing.


3. Natural and vegan do not always mean more sustainable

Natural materials such as bamboo and viscose are often associated with being eco-friendly; the same goes with vegan materials which are made from synthetic alternatives to leather or furs.

But the truth is, they’re not exactly a one-way ticket to being sustainable. For instance, bamboos are fast-growing trees, but sometimes they’re not pesticide-free, which is incredibly polluting [1].

Meanwhile, synthetic leathers are usually considered sustainable since their production process doesn’t involve animals. But, synthetics are often made from petroleum, which isn’t exactly climate-friendly [1].

So it all comes down to how your clothing materials are sourced. Lucky for you, there are tools such as Higg Materials Sustainability Index which you can use to compare the environmental impacts among different textiles.

4. Find out who makes your clothes

Sustainability is a multidimensional concept; it touches every aspect of the business from the manufacturing process to retail shops throughout the entire supply chain. This means it covers not only environmental, but also social aspects such as how companies treat their workers. In recent years, claims have come up about the mistreatment of workers and child labor within the fast-fashion industry [2,3].

A garment factory with workers
Knowing who makes our clothes is important to ensure we don't support unethical manufacturing practices

Source: Rio Lecatompessy [6]

Here are several tools that can come in handy when learning about a brand’s ethical practices and its social and environmental impacts:


5. Look for brands with a holistic approach to sustainability

Lastly, focus on brands that are integrating sustainability into everything they do, from manufacturing to product design.

By keeping at least these five things in mind, now we can continue shopping our favorite fashion brands without having to worry about greenwashing.


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