As global climate change becomes a more pressing issue, sustainability has become a growing movement among individuals who want to minimize their impact on the planet.
By taking actions such as switching plastic straws for reusable ones or composting their food, people have been able to minimize their overall carbon footprint and live an overall more sustainable life. For some, these small actions are not enough and they have turned to companies that support sustainability.
Companies have begun to notice the shift towards sustainability and have sought to take advantage of this movement. While some attempts at sustainability are genuine, many are not.
Greenwashing is a practice where a company or organisation makes a consumer believe that their products — or the organisation as a whole — are environmentally friendly, when in reality they are not.
This practice is problematic for a number of reasons, mainly because it misleads the consumer into thinking that they are supporting an organisation that is in line with their values.
Instead, they may be supporting an organisation that preaches sustainability to the public, but behind the scenes they are not sustainable at all.
Greenwashing is extremely common within the fast fashion industry. Fast fashion companies often make vague claims of sustainability without the evidence to back them up. Brands such as H&M often use this practice. H&M has a clothing line called “Conscious” that claims to be sustainable and the company has made promises to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. There is little evidence to support whether they are meeting their goals to become truly sustainable.
Fast fashion itself is already unsustainable and has its own huge impact on the environment. So can any fast fashion company be considered truly sustainable while they continue to act in unsustainable ways?
As sustainability becomes more important to consumers, what can be done to make sure that they are supporting a company that is actually sustainable, and not one that is treating it as a buzzword?
The definition of sustainability should be clearly outlined by governments and companies should be held directly responsible for proving their claims of sustainability when they make them. This could be done by a government organization, similar to the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, or it could be completed by an independent company dedicated to investigating claims of sustainability.
Until something like that happens, consumers who are interested in living a sustainable lifestyle should be prepared to do their own research into a company’s claims.
There are plenty of companies out there that are truly sustainable and although their goods may be more expensive, at least you know that you are supporting a company that is trying to minimize their carbon footprint, instead of one that is just lying about it.