BUSINESS: “Catfishing” Applies to Sustainability, Too

“Sustainably sourced,” “organic,” “ethical,” “fair trade,” and “recycled materials” are just a few buzzwords large corporations tack onto collections to assure consumers that their dollar is leading to an environmentally-friendly purchase. However, the vague nature of the blanket term of sustainability is often used as a means of finding loopholes. Rather than upkeeping sustainable and ethical business practices through and through, brands will find a particular aspect of sustainability and give themselves a green medal of honor. Let’s discuss some of the most important signs of “greenwashing-” the process of conveying a false impression of an environmentally conscious image.
One of the biggest ways that large corporations brand themselves falsely as sustainable or environmentally conscious is simply by using buzzwords. Stating that a collection is “sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” or even “ethically sourced,” without a clear definition of what that looks like is a giant red flag. Because these business practices are sort of new and not hyper-defined, it’s easy to subjectively claim sustainability. Another example of this is when a brand uses just one aspect of their business and claims to be eco-friendly. For example, many fast fashion or large scale corporations will use organic cottons or recycled textiles as a percentage of a fabrication for a handful of garments within one collection of their hundreds of deliveries for that season. Emphasizing one tiny bit of ethical practice is greenwashing as it completely ignores the majority of what else is going on within that same business, which is often wasteful and quite frankly the opposite of sustainable.
Things to look out for if you want to research a fashion company’s sustainable practices are often far beyond one element of recycled materials. A consumer should also consider packaging, the manufacturing processes, textiles, waste-management, fair labor and trade, and the avoidance of toxic materials and substances. The consumer is beginning to treat the fashion industry the same way it treats the food industry. In the same mass-produced, environmentally damaging way that fast food is manufactured, fast-fashion brands are using similar scalabilities. Today, consumers demand more from their product. Mass-producing clothing and marketing them as a perishable good with trends expiring every season is an obviously unsustainable practice. As brands catch up to this line of thinking, it is up to the consumer to demand more than just eco-friendly buzzwords to satisfy their purchase decisions. If consumers continue to call out greenwashing, it will hopefully positively influence businesses to implement a much wider range of ethical practices.
By Adi Shoham