With sustainability and clean beauty becoming more popular, the amount of brands that greenwash are also rising. I first mentioned greenwashing in my sustainable fashion terms to know post. After that post, I had quite a few questions on brands that greenwash. The thing is though, we all might consider different things when it comes to sustainable fashion or clean beauty. Some of us might only care about what fabric is used but not how its processed or how it impacts the environment. People also have different views on clean beauty. I have done my best to compile tips on what to look for to tell if a brand is truly sustainable and clean.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is the use of marketing to portray a company as environmentally friendly when they are not. This has actually become a big concern since more and more companies are doing this and trying to benefit from sustainable and ethically made clothes. For beauty products, companies advertise as safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly and natural when they are not.
Aveeno is a great example as a brand that greenwashes. They use words like “high quality, natural ingredients” and “ingredients sourced from nature.” This all sounds great but Aveeno also uses ingredients like
- Sodium laureth sulfate
- Synthetic fragrance
Greenwashing is minimally regulated but falls under the Green Guides of the Federal Trade Commission, which monitors the truth in advertising. Deciding whether a brand is actually making strides to minimally impact the environment is completely up to the consumer. Responsible consumers need to research and look for red flags. Some of these red flags could be jargon that does not provide verifying claims and terms like
- socially responsible
- recycled content
While some of these terms are actually legitimate to some of these brands, they are often slapped on to a product or brand to convince shoppers they are good for the environment. Always research to find out what those terms mean to each company. Look for brands with detailed information on their site about their sustainability efforts and third-party, unbiased assessments, labels and awards. Some of these could be
- Safer Choice
- OEKO-TEX Standard
- Global Organic Textile Standard
- B Corporation
How to Spot Greenwashing?
1. Look for numbers
If you want to make sure what the brand is telling the truth about being sustainable and environmentally friendly, look at the figures and numbers they provide and explaining why this makes them sustainable.
2. Watch out for words
Brands try to use words like vegan, natural, conscious and green to make the consumer believe the products are good for the environment when they aren’t. H&M is one of these brands who uses green and conscious for their “Conscious” line. They still release 12-16 lines a year and only 1 is “sustainable” according to their terms. Yet they don’t provide any information on how they define organic and sustainable.
3. Research the factories and suppliers
Another way to see if a brand is being transparent is by looking at their suppliers and looking at the info provided. This is a common issue with brands by not doing enough compliance about their suppliers and relying on forced labour in their factories. That is why it’s important to look at the suppliers’ information and data is extremely crucial. Sites like Fair Wear Foundation and Worker Rights Consortium provide consumers with this data.
4. Do they want you to buy stuff you don’t need?
One of the biggest problems with the fashion industry is brands encouraging you to buy items you don’t really need because it is on trend and in style. If the brand keeps pushing products on you and you buy 5 sustainably made items you don’t need that’s not sustainable at all and actually a waste of resources. Brands like Patagonia, offer programs that repairs to old clothes so you can keep wearing them. Encouraging consumers to buy less is the most sustainable thing a brand can do.
In conclusion, you as a consumer need to pay attention and research what a brand is doing. Look for reports. One thing that I always do when looking up brands is going to their about page and see if they have anything on sustainability and what type of information they are providing me.