How to avoid greenwashing by asking questions, with Y.O.U Underwear
As part of our focus on clothing this month on the run up to Fashion Revolution week from 19th to 25th April, we’ve teamed up with local sustainable fashion company Y.O.U Underwear, to talk a bit about the subject of greenwashing and how you can avoid this by asking brands some important questions.
It can sometimes be hard to know for sure whether a brand is truly committed to ethics and sustainability, especially as brands are becoming better at finding subtle ways of greenwashing their audience. Greenwashing occurs when a company makes a false environmental claim in order to sell more products. Greenwashing can take many different forms, anything from exaggeration to vagueness, token efforts to the clever position of green graphics and recycled-looking paper.
Y.O.U Underwear has put together a list of 5 key questions to ask any brand you shop with, that will help you to cut through some of this marketing spin, and really gauge their commitment to working around some of the fashion industry’s most pressing issues.
Where were my clothes made?
It’s so important for brands to know who made the clothes they sell, and to have fully traceable supply chains where they can identify suppliers around the globe. If a brand is unable to pinpoint where its goods come from, this is a worrying sign!
In what conditions were my clothes made?
The fashion industry is rife with exploitation, and it has never been more important for brands to establish good supplier relationships, where they know what conditions workers operate in. This includes everything from fair pay, gender equality, safe working conditions and policies to prevent the use of modern slavery. How is the brand ensuring it meets international standards for workers’ rights?
What’s in my clothes?
There are so many different fibres out there, and they’re not all created equal! There are a whole host of ethical and environmental issues that come into play when thinking about what our clothes are made from – everything from water contamination from chemical processing and dyes, animal welfare, carbon emissions, deforestation to microfibres. Ask the brand what it’s doing to ensure its raw materials are sourced responsibly and processed in ways that limit environmental impact.
What will happen to my clothes at the end of their life?
Clothing is notoriously difficult to recycle because garments tend to consist of many different component parts, which are challenging to process with existing technologies. Ask the brand if it has any initiatives in place to reclaim end-of-life garments and avoid landfill waste, or if it shares any resources that help customers to manage this themselves.
Additionally, what does the brand do with unsold stock, returned items, damaged goods and other supply chain waste? What processes does it have in place to minimise waste?
What proof do you have?
When it comes to transparency, evidence is key. If a brand uses vague or unsubstantiated claims about its materials or operating practices, this is probably a form of greenwashing – and you may find that their efforts are much less than they may appear. The presence of certifications is always a good sign, as brands which show these on their website or products are required to meet certain requirements by independent third parties.