5 fast-fashion brands challenged for greenwashing
Greenwashing in marketing refers to companies presenting information about products or services in a way that makes consumers believe that they are environmentally friendly. Using false pretenses to sell something is morally wrong and companies that do so should be held accountable. Here are the 5 best fast-fashion brands called our for greenwashing.
5 fast-fashion brands challenged for greenwashing
The world’s second-largest fashion retailer, H&M, contributes monumental amounts of textile waste and produces millions of garments and designs each year. With over 5,000 stores worldwide, H&M is one of many fast fashion companies known for copying high-end fashion, rapid clothing turnover, unsustainable practices including the use of harmful chemicals in its products, as well as inhuman working conditions.
The fast fashion company has since tried to adopt more sustainable practices, from implementing a clothing collection and recycling program in its stores, to launching its “Conscious” collection in 2011 where items are made with at least “50% sustainable materials”. . H&M has also publicly set a goal of using only recycled and sustainably sourced materials by 2030. These initiatives help the company build a “greener” fashion image. According to his 2021 Sustainability Reportthe brand has tripled the percentage of recycled materials used in its clothing and reduced its plastic packaging by nearly 28%.
Despite these promising results, it is in the nature of fast fashion – and therefore also of the Swedish company – to encourage consumers to buy more clothes than they actually need. Plus, promoting recycling and encouraging consumers to do the same can’t make up for the 3 billion pieces of clothing the company produces each year. Many also criticize its sustainability claims as vague and greenwashing, pointing to the lack of transparency when it comes to reducing its environmental impact and carbon emissions throughout the supply chain.
Zara might just be the world’s leading fast fashion retailer. Founded in 1975, Zara has touted its ability to take an item of clothing from concept to retail in just 15 days. The Spanish clothing company has now become one of the largest and most popular fashion brands, offering almost 12,000 new models and manufacturing more than 450 million garments every day.
Like H&M, the Spanish giant has made a big effort to reinforce its image of sustainable development with the launch of “Join Life” almost two decades ago. In addition to considering “moving towards a circular economy model […] to extend the life cycle of [their] products,” Zara plans to switch to 100% renewable energy to run its internal operations by 2030. The clothing company also announced plans to use only cotton and polyester materials that are both sustainable and recyclable, as well as reduce and offset all emissions by 2040.
Yet Zara is nowhere near close enough to tackle its current fast fashion business model and high carbon footprint in its supply chains, which the company hasn’t mentioned slowing down. Many criticize the brand for not providing a sufficiently detailed list of factories and for refraining from publishing the results of their audits. transparency concerns. This, in turn, makes it difficult to assess the real impact of their sustainable development goals.
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As one of the best-known fast fashion companies in the world, it’s no surprise that Japanese retailer Uniqlo appears on the list of eco-fashion companies. Like other fast fashion companies, Uniqlo has been the subject of multiple labor rights violations and complaints.
With over 3,000 stores around the world and items made with a significant amount of inexpensive synthetic materials – including rayon, polyester, nylon and spandex – and sold at rock-bottom prices, the reputation for durability of the brand is also not the best.
In recent years, however, Uniqlo has taken more sustainable approachessuch as focusing on technologies to create new clothing from recycled materials, developing energy-efficient infrastructure, and supporting the Setouchi Olive Foundation, which aims to protect and restore coastal areas and islands in the Seto Inland Sea in Japan. “For more than 20 years, Uniqlo has been committed to sustainability. As a global company creating responsible clothing, we are committed to a healthy planet, society and people. – reads the company’s website.
Yet a lack of transparency has prompted accusations of greenwashing. First of all, Uniqlo does not present any certification for its textiles. But the real problem is that, despite setting a target for reducing emissions in its supply chain on climate change, to date the Japanese brand does not report on its progress or disclose the parameters of Implementation. Its environmental objectives have also not been scientifically validated, making it extremely difficult to determine whether they are in line with national and international climate policies.
As the world’s largest supplier of athletic footwear and apparel and a major manufacturer of sports equipment, Nike has long come under fire from environmentalists and activists. The company was built on the business model to find the lowest possible labor cost, leading to several scandals related to sweatshops in indonesia. Decades of campaigning for workers’ rights have led to drastic changes in the culture of the company, which is now seen by many as a champion of sustainability.
Despite significant progress in recent years, the brand is still at the center of greenwashing claims, most recently for its “Getting to zero” campaign, specifically linked to Climate Week and articulated around the idea that “if there is no planet, there is no sport”. The campaign claims to be part of Nike’s journey to zero carbon and zero waste. Yet Fashionista reporter Whitney Bauck describes it as a simple “marketing campaign that repackages old commitments without offering new ones”. In an interview with the fashion magazine, Nike’s sustainability director, Noel Kinder, has himself admitted that some of the goals the company has set – like diverting 99% of all shoemaking waste from landfills and reducing water usage across Nike’s supply chain by 20% per unit by 2020 – were not entirely realistic and may in fact be harder to achieve than initially thought. While the company’s progress is certainly welcome news, advertising environmentally friendly practices without fully committing to them is a form of greenwashing.
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5. All the birds
Certified B Corporation for its social and environmental performance, Allbirds is a New Zealand footwear and apparel company known for being the maker of the popular ‘sustainable’ woolen running trainers.
Despite its claims to keep its products as environmentally friendly as possible, Allbirds has been accused of underestimating the environmental impact of using wool in its sneakers, misleadingly marketing its supplier’s sheepskin. “live the good life”. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – the world’s largest animal rights organization – workers beat, trampled, skinned and butchered conscious and struggling sheep. Additionally, while the company’s Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) measures the carbon footprint of each product based on materials, manufacturing, and product use, it does not assess the environmental impact of wool production on water use, eutrophication or land use.
A proposed class action lawsuit filed earlier this year claiming Allbirds misled consumers about its carbon footprint and animal welfare claims was fired in June by Judge Cathy Seibel of the Southern District of New York because the plaintiff alleges nothing in relation to the wool used by the particular company.
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