Greenwashing is one of the biggest threats to sustainable companies today. It's severely harming the reputations of legitimate businesses, activists, and the environment.
Not only is it unethical but it can have detrimental consequences on your company. Leading to government fines and bad press because of the lack of transparency and poor responsiveness. It's deception and manipulation in the name of ecological, economic, and social wellbeing, just to gain a few bucks off the consumer's back.
And what better culprit of greenwashing than the fashion industry itself. The fashion industry is now the second-largest generator of pollution on Earth after the oil industry. Particularly the fashion industry's Frankenstein Monster, Fast Fashion.
The core of Fast Fashion, is rapid consumption and disposal. This is why they're made from really cheap quality material that doesn't seem to last more than a season's wear. They are mass-manufactured which causes huge carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, 10 percent of the global carbon emissions to be exact.
While also being notorious for their terrible working conditions, textile workers, the majority of which are women, are extremely underpaid; only two percent of companies source their workers from suppliers that pay a living wage. They work in dehumanizing and unsafe environments — sweatshops. Not to mention Child labor is also still very much prevalent in garment production.
Massive clothing chains like H&M, Zara, and ASOS have undergone the fires of greenwashing to the point of being boycotted.
Activists and campaigners have had enough of H&M's greenwashing. Photo: Jake Randall
If the foundation of your business model relies on this type of supply chain, promoting your new "green" line seems kind of ridiculous, don't you think?
Creating an add-on sustainability agenda to your overall business model, which relies on an exploitative and unsustainable supply chain, cannot ultimately tackle the larger problems of textile waste and climate change.
But the good news is, now that more people are aware and conscious of these corporate malpractices, millions of people now are doing their own market research online via Google and other search engines and social media before purchasing a trendy "sustainable" product.
So, How Can We Steer Away From Greenwashing into Genuine Sustainability?
A sustainable business model will look different for every business, especially in different industries. But there are basics that businesses should take into consideration if they want to fall under the umbrella of sustainable companies.
1. Social Wellbeing Your employees are a reflection of your company's image. Making sure they're being compensated for their labor fairly in a safe and healthy environment is a good place to start. Investing in your employee's wellbeing, whether it's financially or socially, will inevitably bring a high return-on-investment with smiling faces. Happy worker, happy company
Example: Adidas has taken impressive steps to ensure their employee's overall well-being. They started including creative scheduling and time off models. Employees can earn flexible time off and, paid vacations, sabbaticals, or early retirement. Parents can switch to a part-time basis without losing status. In fact, some locations offer nursery rooms and fully-equipped temporary offices that are kid-friendly.
2. Transparency As mentioned previously, if companies are genuinely striving for sustainability, and not just putting on a show, they'll want the entire world to know. This includes having reports, data, graphs, and statements that state the clean objective of their sustainability project.
Example: Everlane, a direct-to-consumer clothing brand that pioneered the concept of
"radical transparency". This method charts out the cost of labor, materials, and
the company's profit margin for each item. Now, I'm not saying you should start to publish every single detail about your
business, but not shying away from sharing these types of details with the
public is a huge trust-building tactic and quite a respectable approach to how you want to present sustainability as part of your brand's identity.
3. Environmental products This goes without saying. Switching all materials used in your business to eco-friendly biodegradable alternatives.
Example: Nike introduced a line of sustainable products that are made using environmentally preferred materials like recycled polyester. The company also uses renewable energy sources in manufacturing, decreasing its carbon emissions, and has pressed 650 of its
suppliers in 52 countries to develop and implement written environmental policies.
So, when you're thinking of going green; be genuine, or just don't do it. Because when false advertising is exposed, not only does it deeply scar your brand's reputation, but it also damages the movement the brand is (supposedly) part of.
If you're trying to pave your own path to a greener future for your brand, you can start by looking at your employees, your brand's transparency, and the materials involved in your operations.
To learn more about how your business can drive and thrive further in today's sustainability movement. Join our exclusive Mastermind Facebook Group for all the information your brand desires.