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As sustainable fashion and any organic products become more mainstream, companies are latching onto this revolution—some with intentions of actually becoming more ethical and others are just trying to make consumers think they are ecologically responsible i.e brands that are Greenwashing.

Coined in 1986 by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, Greenwashing — or ‘Green Sheen’ — is when a company uses misleading or false claims to suggest it’s doing more for the environment than it actually is. “It’s easy to say something is sustainable and not have to prove it. It’s not always backed up by real, credible data. It makes it difficult for consumers to make smart choices.” says Amina Razvi, executive director of Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

This is especially becoming a problem with fast fashion brands launching more responsibly made collections or just making marketing claims that they’re going “green”. In Fact, fast-fashion retailers like H&M and ZARA are even investigated or warned by authorities and watchdogs for exaggerating their sustainability claims. Recently, Norway’s consumer watchdog has criticized H&M for misleading marketing of its “sustainable” conscious collection. The Norwegian Consumer Authority (CA) has said that the Swedish clothing retailer provides “insufficient” information about the sustainable nature of its “sustainable style” collection.

So it’s important for the consumers to do their research, Don’t just listen to the marketing claims. Indulge in companies websites and know what they are doing for being sustainable.

Below are a few ways to spot greenwashing in the fashion industry and become a more eco-responsible shopper.

No Words, Only Numbers

The easiest way to look out whether brands are greenwashing is not by taking them at face value but by looking for figures that support their initiatives. The companies which use words such as ‘Organic’, ‘Sustainably made’, ‘Ethical fashion’, ‘Eco-friendly’, “check how much the percentage of their products are made with recycled/organic materials. Find out what are the quantifiable goals of the Brands that they have listed publicly” says Razvi. Companies that are truly committed to sustainable goals try to back themselves by the science-based solutions. They measure and are committed to reducing the impact every year.

The More Specific, The better- ‘Natural or Vegan isn’t always eco-friendly’

Ever thought how sourcing makes ‘natural raw material’ be called as ‘eco-friendly’? Yes, not all Natural or vegan materials are eco-friendly until sourced the right way.

Natural materials such as cotton, bamboo, viscose are promoted as ec0-friendly, but it depends on how they are sourced. For example, “Viscose is responsible for deforestation unless it is coming from a certified source” explains Orsola de Castro, founder of campaign group Fashion Revolution. Approx 150 million trees are cut down for viscose production annually. De castra also mentions,”Unless it comes from an organic source, bamboo is incredibly polluting,” as it is sometimes grown with pesticides and chemicals when turned into fabric.

In the fashion industry, Vegan can mean materials that are made from synthetic products. These are acclaimed as sustainable as they are not from animal skin. These vegan materials are often shopped as concerned about animal welfare but they can have detrimental impacts on the environment as they are often made from oil which is very bad for the planet.

Research is key. The more one is informed about material sourcing, the more one knows about its sustainability measures. One such tool is the Higg Materials Sustainability Index which compares the environmental impacts of different textiles.

Check out their Certifications

Look out for industry standards. Does the brand say “we use organic material” and we have “conscious production”? Or they say we are certified by The National Organic Textiles Standards (NOTS) under the National Programme for Organic Productions (NPOP); Use Bluesign, a Global seal of approval for the environment, health, and production safety and FairTradeCertified which ensures workers are protected throughout the supply chain. The brand shall include the above but are not limited to these. The latter is what to look for-Photos, Videos, Proof of certification, and also good forms of supporting evidence.

Find out Who Is Making Your Clothes

Most of the brands are speaking about their suppliers but are less transparent about the actual treatment that goes around in the factories. Workers right consortium provides reports into the treatment of factory workers around the world. Seek for brands that are telling consumers Where, How and by Whom their products are made. Transparency is in Fashion.

Get A holistic view of the brand’s impact

Finally, invest in brands that have a holistic approach by looking at the bigger picture rather than focusing on individual issues. An authentic sustainable brand just does not restrict itself from being sustainable in an area but integrates itself in whatever they do. Invest in brands that are openly transparent and communicate about its sustainable journey and not that uses sustainability slang with little to no evidence to back them up.

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