What Is Greenwashing?
I've seen this term thrown around a lot lately and I'd like to dig into it a little bit!
Greenwashing is a form of deceptive marketing used to persuade consumers that a company's products/policies are environmentally-friendly. It applies to all industries, not just retail, and is a tactic widely used by global corporations (which is the focus of this post). Greenwashing can include false/misleading claims, overuse of buzzwords, green marketing visuals, etc.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Ethics and sustainability are an integral part of the picture as well as environmental impact and need to be taken into consideration too. Just because a product is plastic-free, doesn't mean it wasn't made in an oppressive/unsafe/unsustainable way. We need to take into consideration supply chain, as well as the end product itself.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
H&M, a multibillion dollar fast-fashion company, that has a 'Conscious' line of clothing, but still mass produces 3 billion garments per year and has completely unethical and unsustainable supply chains. Not to mention that the majority of their clothes are made out of synthetic fibres and aren't made to last, which results in them ending up in landfills. Plus, synthetic fibres shed a ton of microplastics with each wash.
The fashion industry is also the second-largest consumer of water and produces a ton of water waste in the manufacturing process. This is from making the actual textiles, to dying.
Cotton farming, for example, uses 20,000 liters of water are needed to produce just 1kg of cotton. Dying fabric can take up to 200 tonnes of fresh water per every tonne of dyed fabric. It's estimated that 80-90% of wastewater from the fashion industry is returned to the environment untreated which has polluted entire waterways, decimating ecosystems.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Retail isn't the only culprit though! Greenwashing is prevalent in almost every industry. Nestle, for example, is one of the biggest polluters and they claim to have made a more 'eco-friendly' water bottle since it's made with less plastic. At the end of the day though, it's still a water bottle made from fossil fuels which, more often than not, ends up in landfills and waterways.⠀⠀
If a company isn't transparent and doesn't back up their claims with tangible evidence, that should be a red flag. These massive corporations have the buying power to implement changes that smaller brands and makers don't necessarily have. Small brands and independents that are open about their processes and doing what they can shouldn't be our focus in my opinion, since they don't have the resources available to them that these billion dollar corporations do. Plus, the majority of greenhouse emissions come from big corps already. According to Carbon Majors, there are 100 companies that are responsible for 71% of all carbon emissions.
We need to continue to ask questions and do our research. It's easy to take things at face value, but we need to dig deeper and hold these major corps accountable. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Landfill Photo: https://news.mongabay.com/2020/04/trendy-cheap-and-dirty-fashion-is-a-top-global-polluter/
Nestle Water Bottle Photo: http://www.personal.psu.edu/kmw130/blogs/my_blog/2011/07/greenwashing-nestles-eco-shape-bottles.html