A brand or company greenwashes when it gives a false impression or provides misleading information about how products are environmentally sound. It deceives consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly. Here are our tips on how to identify greenwashing and how to avoid being subjected to it.
Do your research
If you’re not sure about something, ask the brand or manufacturer. Follow up. Find out whether brands have measurable targets. Truly committed companies measure and are committed to reducing environmental impacts every year. Also check the Good on You app if you’re buying an international brand.
Look for numbers, not words
Companies use words such as ‘sustainably-made’ or ‘eco-friendly’ but for instance what percentage of their products are made with recycled materials?
Natural isn’t always more eco-friendly
Natural materials such as viscose, rayon and bamboo are promoted as eco-friendly, but it depends on how they’re sourced and manufactured. For instance, unless it comes from a certified source, viscose can be responsible for deforestation,
Vegan doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable
In fashion, vegan can mean products are made from synthetic alternatives to leather and fur. These are often made from oil, which is bad for the planet.
Find out who makes your clothes
Find out whether workers are allowed to form unions and what they are being paid. If they have an opportunity to be part of a union, they are asking for things in unison and there is safety in numbers. Check labour regulations with the labour unions like SACTWU for the clothing and textile industry.
Check for certifications
We don’t have widely used South African certifications, but a few local companies have received international industry-standard certifications, and more will follow. These certifications include but are not limited to Bluesign; FairTrade; B Corp; Cradle to Cradle Certified; Global Organic Textile Standard.
Invest in brands with a holistic approach
We prefer a holistic approach rather than a focus on individual issues. Companies should be integrating sustainability into everything they do — not just one collection or a handful of pieces.
Use common sense
Don’t trust marketing speak and beware of the overuse of buzzwords. It is easier to check the supply chains and labour conditions of small, independent and local brands.
- Sources: Twyg, Vogue Australia and Investopedia
- Image: Toan Nguyen / Unsplash