The Rise of Fake Sustainable Brands
Nowadays, sustainable and climate-conscious produced products are becoming easily accesible. However, only last year did the Changing Markets Foundation issue a report revealing that almost 60% of all sustainable claims by both European and UK fashion brands are false. Many brands continue to use fossil-based synthetic fibres despite many pledges to reduce their environmental impact, and a significant number of companies do not offer credible information about how they intend to reduce their environmental impact. In essence, they are greenwashing.
THE ISSUE WITH SYNTHETIC FIBRES
Simply put, synthetic fibres are produced from petroleum, which is a mixture of hydrocarbons that occur on Earth in liquid, gaseous, or solid form. Unlike natural products, synthetic products do not decompose quickly, thus causing long-term pollution. They could take up to 500 to 1000 years to eventually break down! Clothing made from synthetic fibres, such as polyester and nylon, contributes to microplastic pollution that ends up in the ocean and threatens marine life.
The oceans end up with 1.5 million tons of microplastics each year, according to statistics! A third of it comes from our clothes, which are made from synthetic fibres. It has been reported that the synthetic fibre industry is accountable for over 20% of the industrial water pollution in the whole world.
Who are the worst offenders?
H&M: 96% false claims. They even released a ‘Conscious Collection’ which turned out to include more synthetic fibres than the original line (72% compared to 61%).
ASOS: 89% false claims. The Changing Markets Foundation reported in 2021 that 89% of ASOS’ green claims were greenwashed. Yet, 39% of evaluated products claimed to be “recycled”, “eco”, “low-impact” or simply “sustainable”.
SHEIN: The Chinese brand quickly became popular due to social media. It adds approximately 500 products to their website every day, at monumentally cheap prices!
BOOHOO: Despite the company stating that it is going to disclose its factor list and purchasing practices back in 2021, we have yet to see this. The Sunday Times investigated the company and discovered that workers in a Leicester factory were making as little as £3.50 per hour. In addition to this, workers were also compelled to go to work while being sick with Coronavirus, while the company provided little to no protective equipment.
ZARA: Zara has been known for greenwashing for years, they are just one of many brands that contribute to massive amounts of textile waste caused by the clothing industry. Approximately 80% of their discarded textiles globally are inerated or landfill-bond, with just about 20% being reused or recycled.
How to spot a fake sustainable brand
No proof: If a brand makes an environmental-related claim without actually proving this, chances are that they are just greenwashing. For example, if they state that their clothing is made from multiple recycled fabrics yet they can not verify this.
False Advertising: A very clear example of this is when a fashion brand states that they use 100% recycled materials/non-toxic dyes etc, but they actually do not.
Vagueness: If the fashion brand uses terms that are broad and can’t not be understood, then chances are they are lying. This is a very common tactic within the fast-fashion industry, many brands will use words such as: ‘conscious’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘ethical’ etc and provide zero details about how their brand is actually any of these things.
Packaging: Pay attention to what the packaging is made of rather than what's printed on it. A greenwashed site will often display idyllic pictures of baby rainforest animals and green landscapes. A truly ethical business model minimises the amount of waste used in their packaging.
What makes a brand ethical?
Despite the endless lists about unethical brands and how to spot them, let's talk about some of the best and genuine ethical brands! An ethical brand ensures their workers are treated and paid fairly across the supply chain. Including policies and practices on child labour, forced labour, worker safety and payment of a living wage.
An ethical brand is also concerned about reducing its carbon emissions, avoiding synthetic fibres where possible and using and disposing of chemicals responsibly.
Furthermore, they do not use or use very few animal products, such as wool, leather, fur, angora, down feathers, or exoctic skins and hair. In short, they aim to be a completely vegan brand.
In other words, the brand actually cares for the environment!
Here are just a few of the most popular eco-friendly brands today, that are betting against fast fashion:
Additionally, there is an abundance of Chrome extensions that help you find environmentally friendly alternatives to your favourite fashion websites. Bamboo is a personal favourite, as if you struggle to find climate conscious alternatives - this extension does all the work for you! Another great resource is Good on You which rates fashion brands sustainability efforts!