According to the Cambridge Dictionary Greenwashing is ”to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”. The term was coined by Jay Westerveld in the 1980’s and as time has passed, greenwashing has become more and more sophisticated.
It is seen across industries with famous cases including Volkswagen cheating emissions tests with so called “defeat devices” and Coca Cola’s “natural” sugar drinks. The trend for green spaces and environmentally minded aesthetics means we see it all the time in fashion. Many stores have switched up their interiors to include plants, raffia and natural light- this doesn’t mean their collections are any more sustainable.
It is so easy to get duped by these marketing ploys. The people that make them are experts with big budgets and we’re only human. As consumers, we are rarely let in to see what is actually happening before the shop floor but reports about supply chains are coming out all the time. An organic cotton T Shirt can still be made in a substandard factory- it’s about being aware. Then if you do buy something, is it worth the materials and energy taken to make it?
As consumers, we have the right to ask about the origins of things we buy- if more people did then companies would be forced to be more transparent and not hide behind marketing. There has been improvements with this, H&M made efforts after pressure to do so. They came out as 4th in Fashion Revolutions’s Global Transparency Index in 2018 with 55% (at least they got half I guess). Transparency can still be a tricky thing to measure as factories can outsource work or “behave” only on visits. There’s a long way to go but changing our consumer behaviour is a big part. So when you see the words “conscious” or “clean”, ask yourself if it really is.