The promotion of environmental values has taken on a significant scale in the past few years. Companies want to show that they are concerned for the well-being and the future of our planet throughout their methods, values and actions. The need for green practices is gaining more importance but how can we, as consumers, ensure that the actions taken by companies in the clothing industry are truly sustainable and respectful of the environnement?
Greenwashing and sustainability
There are several ways, well known by businesses, to encourage illusory perceptions of environmental practices. It is common for companies to promote products or services as being “green” in order to enhance their image. That is what is called greenwashing.
Greenwashing: behaviour or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.
It is possible to notice various ways of doing greenwashing such as mentioning that products are sustainable, natural, healthier, without chemicals, recyclable or less destructive to natural resources. Although these words can be true regarding products of a company, the current problem is that some businesses are not fully transparent or are using marketing strategies to show a better image than what reality is.
“Products are greenwashed through a process of renaming, rebranding, or repackaging. Greenwashed products might convey the idea that they're more natural, wholesome, or free of chemicals than competing brands.”
Another popular practice to encourage greenwashing is the usage of buzzwords that draw a particular attention to consumers. Think about words like “carbon footprint”, “compostable”, “eco-friendly”, “organic”, “recyclable” and “sustainable”.
Sustainability: Describes the use of natural resources when it is kept at a steady level that it is not likely to damage the environment.
Once again, the usage of the word sustainability can blur the reality of companies and sound harmonious to consumer ears. The problem is that it’s rare that a human action favors the maintenance of the environment. Humans necessarily have a negative impact on their environment to meet their basic needs but also because of their consumption habits. Therefore, in reality, only a small amount of everyday products and services are truly sustainable. A company should rather focus on reducing the environmental impact of their actions and on promoting related values in order to encourage consumers in learning and sharing these values.
The impact of the green image
Greenwashing first has a social impact that disturbs consumers' perceptions. However, many consequences arise from wrong publicity such as fake images projected to purchasers but also harmful actions for the environment that we are not aware of.
Among the actions taken by businesses, one of the most frequent is the creation of a green clothing line to give a better image to the company that does not necessarily stick to these values. Although these clothing collections are created from less harmful materials for the environment, they are made using the exact same methods as the other collections of the brand. Thus, a lot of efforts are invested on the green image of this collection, while not enough efforts are put into the process of the creation of these products.
A widely spread phenomenon in the industry, but very little advertised, is one of the main factors of environmental impacts of greenwashing. Multinationals in the clothing industry create pieces in bulk but do not sell all of their stock. In order to avoid keeping all their products in store or to keep them in their warehouse for many seasons, which would have a negative image for their clients, big companies send their clothes elsewhere to burn them. This way, after only a couple of weeks of being on discount to sell off inventory, the clothes end up in flames to ensure a good turnover. On the side of haute couture brands, they skip the discount step and send what’s left directly to the incinerator when the season ends, since their goal is to prevent other competitors and designers from putting their hands on their unsold creations and stealing their fabrics, patterns or designs. The discount on their collections would also have a negative impact on their top of the line image by making their expensive clothes more accessible.
The various actions taken by companies in the clothing industry reveal their invested efforts in what is mostly a green image instead of real actions. It is not only the case for the creation of eco-responsible collections and the use of words that refer to the environment but also in all that encompasses the clothing industry. Think of delivery, moving the materials, delivery articles, label production, usage and the choice of office articles and more. Some companies put emphasis on recyclable or compostable packaging while their materials are not entirely what they promote or they end up in the waste. This can be explained by the lack of necessary infrastructures to take in charge the recycling or compost cycle or even by soiled materials, for example plastic stickers on a cardboard box. Other companies simply do not put environmental effort in other spheres of their business.
Grise and sustainability
What’s essential to understand is that a company is therefore harmful for the planet. However, where the significant work starts is in the awareness of environmental impact. Subsequently, companies can act by trying to minimize their impact and by making more informed choices that rely on concrete actions. For Grise, the reflections on sustainability of our actions, processes and materials have been implemented since our creation. First, by our superior quality materials that vary depending on the seasons, though our choice of partners chosen to minimise the transportation of our products and materials and with our choice of equipment and packaging for delivery. In addition, we place great emphasis on sharing and educating environmental values in order to raise awareness among individuals who cross Grise’s path. It’s not always easy for a company to make choices that contribute to sustainability and reduce environmental impact because of the complexity and the added costs that these decisions represent : this is where the value lies in choosing products from companies that are truly environmentally conscious.
Cambridge Dictionary [https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/greenwashing]