Fast fashion is notorious for greenwashing and it’s only ramping up as consumers become increasingly aware of the truth behind their favourite clothing companies.
But let’s take a step back for a second. What exactly is fast fashion?
The term was made to describe a clothing business model that could take clothing from a sketch on a piece of paper to a fully made garment in about a week’s time. Believe it or not but this used to be abnormal. Clothing companies would produce one or two collections a year whereas now we get a new style every week if not more.
This has only gotten worse as consumers demand more clothing at a cheaper and fast rate. This means that in order for these brands to meet these demands they will cut corners anywhere they can including using materials and practices that absolutely destroy our planet and severely underpaying and mistreating their garment workers.
Nobody wins in fast fashion.
And as we become more and more aware of the scary truth behind how our clothing is made, brands are scared to lose their profit. Enter in: greenwashing.
Greenwashing is as simple as it sounds. A marketing tactic is used to make the consumer believe they are using ethical and sustainable practices when this is far from the truth.
Fast Fashion’s Greenwashing
There are a few ways fast fashion brands like to greenwash. Here are some you should look out for.
1. “Eco-Conscious” Collections – one of the most popular ways fashion brands like to greenwash is by coming out with what they call an “eco-conscious” collection. (Or something along those lines.)
Often they’ll use organic cotton or recycled material in these clothing items. This will often follow by hiring a celebrity as their “Sustainability Ambassador” like H&M did when they hired Maisie Williams and like Boohoo did when they hired Kourtney Kardashian. What credentials in sustainability do either of these women have? Oh, none. And what their job is isn’t clear at all.
Next they’ll do a huge “We love Earth!” marketing campaign which quite often falls in April which is Earth month. All of these acts are empty.
First, what is the point of an eco-collection when all of the rest of your clothing isn’t eco-conscious? To greenwash consumers. All of the rest of their clothing is still unsustainably produced and at the end of the day, they are still producing too much clothing to ever be sustainable.
2. Using plastic-free packaging – ok. So you don’t ship your clothing in plastic but your clothes are literally made of plastic? Make it make sense, y’all.
3. Recycling programs – H&M will always be top of mind as a trailblazer in greenwashing. They’re famously known for their “eco-collections” as well as their recycling program. They have recycling bins at their store locations where you can bring your old clothing to be recycled. This sound all nice and good but there are a few problems.
First, it doesn’t tell you what happens to your clothes after you’ve dropped it off. Their website simply says their business partners take over. Who are their business partners? How do they recycle the clothing? Who knows. I doubt H&M does.
Second, we cannot recycle our way out of the climate crisis. We cannot keep producing clothing at the rate these brands are and hope that recycling it will change anything. There are already too many clothes on the planet and they’re creating millions more every single week.
While there can be other ways fast fashion brands like to greenwash, I’ve found these to be the most prevalent. It’s something to keep in mind when shopping.
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