The planet is in the midst of a climate crisis and fashion is the second largest polluting industry in the world after the oil industry. We firmly believe that there is a responsibility for those working in the industry to behave with respect to both people and planet.
Customers often have the expectation that the companies from which they make purchases are making efforts operate responsibly. Unfortunately, due to a lack of legislation there is no standardised criteria around what constitutes sustainable practices. This has lead us to an era of 'GREENWASHING'. Large companies are using our desire to be more sustainable to sell us more of their unsustainable products. If that sounds underhand and manipulative thats because it is.
So, we are going to break it down for you into three simple parts. What is 'Greenwashing', how are companies using it and how to avoid it.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is when a company professes to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes but actually isn't making any notable sustainability efforts. To be clear, the fashion isn't the only industry that is affected. This practice is used everywhere as a marketing tool.
How are companies using it?
You might have seen product lines within the big high street chain fashion stores with names like - Conscious or Eco, with claims that these products are made with up to 50% recycled materials. When you are shopping, online or in store these quick labels and figures are designed to make you feel good about your purchases without ever really giving you the whole picture. And even if there is one line of products that truly are sustainable in the store what does that tell you about everything else they are selling?
Because such a wide range of companies spend millions on suggestive and sometimes even manipulative marketing tactics, it can be challenging to identify which fashion brands use greenwashing and which brands are legitimately sustainable. Some red flags to look out for are
* Vagueness - using buzz words like 'eco', 'conscious' and 'green' with no other information about how or why they are using those words.
*Lack of transparency - Little to no information about their supply chain. Where the products are produced, who is producing them, what they are paid and what their working conditions are like.
*Using "natural" materials. - Whilst viscose might come from the natural environment sourcing it does terrible damage to the natural environment. It is estimated 150 million trees are logged each year for viscose production. Even more alarmingly, fabric production wastes about 70% of the tree.
How can you avoid it?
Slow down. Fast fashion is never going to be sustainable. Purchasing clothes that only last a season or even just a year will always result in more waste in landfills around the planet (see our blog - How Ghana is feeling the impact of fast fashion). Take you time when making purchases. Think about the longevity, will you wear this product year after year. Take the time to check the make up of the product. Are there artificial fibres in the product? Research companies - where are their products produced, what are the working conditions like for those producing them?
Remember - Sustainability is a journey. To be 100% sustainable is extremely difficult. Just because a brand you love isn't entirely sustainable, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re “bad” or that you should feel bad for shopping there.
If you are trying to be more sustainable take you time, do your research and make informed decisions from companies that are open and honest about what they are doing and what they need to do better at.
At Ashanti Empress both environmental and social sustainability is at the fore front of our mind. We aim to be transparent about what we do but that also means we need to be transparent about the things we are working on.
Some things we already do:
- Fair pay for all employees - our tailors all set their own wages and this increases yearly.
- Training and opportunities to develop.
- Supporting social projects in Ghana.
- We use 100% cotton fabric.
- A product line made from 100% recycled material
- We make super limited edition collections - No mass/over production equals no wastage.
- Small accessories are made from the offcuts of our clothing designs, we don't let any of this fantastic fabric go to waste!
Things that we are working on:
- Reducing our carbon footprint through transporting in big batches.
- 100% at home recyclable packaging which is made from recycled plastic.
- Circular products - items at the end of their life to be turned into new products.
- Ideas for upcycling old products.
We are constantly evolving and trying to make our business have the most positive impact on the people involved and the planet and we always welcome your suggestions.