The Journal | 15.09.2020

Are you really wearing sustainable clothing? 4 ways to identify greenwashing

We’re living in a time when branding is the make or break of a company. It is imperative for organisations to align themselves with the sentiments of their buyers, as the newer generations of consumers are passionate about social justice, animal rights and earth-care.

For the first time, buyers know how much power their purchasing decisions have. That is why they’re awarding their support to brands that are ethical and contributing to positive change in the world. 

Many brands have taken advantage of this- identifying an opportunity to gain buyers, by presenting a sustainable front to its consumers, without actually implementing the practices that would justify such claims.

Brands that portray themselves as “green”, or “eco-friendly” without actually practising sustainability, are guilty of greenwashing - misleading the public in order to gain sales. 

If you support sustainable clothing brands, do you know if the clothing that you’re wearing is truly sustainable? Here are 4 tips for identifying greenwashing when you shop for sustainable clothing:

1. Beware of the jargon

Remember, cyanide is gluten-free, too. That doesn't make it less harmful. Jargon refers to buzzwords that evoke an emotional reaction in people - when you read words like sustainable, socially responsible, eco-friendly, bioplastic, or recycled content, it immediately sparks an image of eco-friendly practices.

Don’t be so easily fooled: “While some of these terms can be legitimate, they’re often slapped onto products to convince buyers that they’re good for the environment. Always dig deeper into what the terms mean for a specific company,” - Perry Wheeler, a spokesperson for Greenpeace USA

2. Ask yourself this: Are they running with a cover?

A number of brands believe that they’re being honest by calling their entire business eco-friendly and sustainable, when in actual fact, only a small portion of their products or services are associated with eco-friendly practices.

For example, if a sustainable clothing manufacturer creates garments out of sustainable materials, but their processes still emit harmful chemicals into the air and ecosystems, they’re not sustainable.

Even if they claim to be. Unfortunately, it falls to the consumer to investigate and find out what their processes are. Brands that produce sustainable clothing without the greenwashing will be transparent, providing consumers with details on every step of their manufacturing process. 

What % of their collection is ethical/sustainable?

3. Let’s talk about the sustainable clothing manufacturing processes

In order to be truly sustainable, a clothing manufacturer must consider every aspect of the manufacturing process. This starts with the production of textiles - they need to be ethically sourced. The people and the factories that turn the textiles into the clothing must comply with ethical labour laws, ensuring everyone involved earns a fair wage.

The sales processes, transportation, and shipping must all endeavour to use solar power for their duties wherever possible. This is only a brief overview of the detail that goes into the creation of a sustainable clothing brand. You can learn more about Naeco’s processeshere

4. How transparent are their practices? 

Can you source information on the company’s production practices easily? If you contact someone, are they helpful and able to provide you with information?

Not all sustainable clothing brands publish their full processes, but this information should be easily sourced if you ask for it - after all - if they’re truly sustainable in their every practice, they should be proud of that and use it in their branding and advertising. 

Sustainable clothing brands that make a difference 

Naeco endeavours to do everything with care for the planet. From our beach cleanups through to the repurposing of used plastic, we keep harmful pollutants out of the ocean and away from landfill sites. Where do we send these products? To be repurposed into useful textiles and accessories.

Have a browse through our online store to see what can be achieved as a truly sustainable clothing brand.