Fashion brands are always trying to apply innovative approaches to their marketing. They want to be ahead of the curve, stay closely in touch with consumers’ needs and expectations, and inspire them. They want to innovate to stay ahead of their competitors. Technology has revolutionised fashion design and marketing. With this constant pressure on them to innovate and to deploy the latest technology, as well as to recover from the sharp drop in sales during Covid-19, it’s easy for fashion companies to lose track of what is real and ethical and what isn’t. When they lose touch, the result is often greenwashing.
Marketers and designers tend to get lost in the details and lose sight of wider issues. When an issue arises that challenges their competitiveness, they may deploy “quick fixes” which do not work in the long run. This is one reason why the fashion industry has a bad reputation when it comes to being eco-friendly. Many fashion designers and marketers will try anything to make their brand appear more environmentally friendly. This includes using terms like ‘natural’, or ‘eco-friendly’ as a marketing tactic instead of genuine descriptors.
So, when consumers see such terms, they need to be aware that such terms for not indicate that a brand is following sustainable practices – these are just marketing tactics used routinely to make consumers think that a brand is more eco-friendly than it really is – effectively to trick them.
So, let’s take a closer look at common greenwashing phenomena in the fashion industry, how fashion brands can avoid falling into these greenwashing traps, and some real examples of what not to do if you want your brand’s marketing and branding practices to remain authentic without looking fake.
We have published various articles on greenwashing recently, but let’s start with a quick recap. Greenwashing is when companies or brands use environmentally friendly marketing tactics to make customers think they care, when they’re really just trying to increase profits. The idea is that by using buzzwords like ‘natural’, or ‘eco-friendly’, you’re letting customers know that you care about the environment. However, if every marketing tactic you use is designed to stimulate these kinds of feelings, while steering consumers towards buying your products, even though yu can’t back up your claims with data, then it’s likely that you’re likely that you’re greenwashing your brand. The practice is so common that it’s been studied and written about extensively and has attracted the attention of regulators in the UK, the USA and the EU.. And yet the problem persists.
In fashion greenwashing fashion, product labels are one of the worst offenders. Greenwashing on labels happens most often when you see terms like ‘natural’, ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’ on a product’s label. These terms have become so common in the fashion industry that many consumers are immune to them. But they shouldn’t be used at all. There is no generally agreed definition of these terms, not is robust data available to back up fashion brands’ claims.
Fashion advertising campaigns also often greenwash. For example, Earth Day has become another excuse for try to sell us fashion items on the premise that they are sustainable. Brands including H&M and Uniqlo have both made this mistake in this past, and are unlikely to repeat it again in a hurry.
Many fashion brands are guilty. In fact, one study suggests that fashion brands make up a quarter of all greenwashing. Five fast fashion brands – H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, Nike, Uniqlo and Allbirds, were recently called out for greenwashing. Consumers may find this hard to grasp, as these same brands have positioned themselves so strongly as the consumer’s friend, bringing the latest fashions to them much quicker and cheaper than before they arrived. But consumer-friendly, as we know, does not necessarily mean eco-friendly.
Fortunately, greenwashing can be avoided by fashion brands, if they refuse to make eco claims until they have changed their design, manufacturing, packaging and distribution practices to actually become more eco-friendly. This can be done mainly by Improving transparency of their supply chains, specifically to allow companies to avoid such things as raw materials with bad ecological records and poor durability and wasteful power usage practices, while focusing more on reuse and recycling
The fashion industry is one of the most creative industries in the world, and many of its highly innovative brands are always looking for ways to increase their impact on the market. But this has led to greenwashing. When they are found out, consumers’ trust in the brand can be destroyed, leading to lower sales. The main takeaway for fashion brands here is that unless you have robust data to back up your claims when they come under scrutiny, stay away from using greenwashing buzzwords and claims in your marketing.