Claiming Green For Green: When Companies Greenwash To Profit

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I saw a broadway show last week and was extremely disappointed when I approached a trash can to toss my cup of coffee. Their Trash/ Bottles&Cans/ Plastics garbage cans lacked dividers and all led to the ‘landfill’ option, despite their labeling. While this seems miniscule, this ideology can expand to the scale of large corporations. Not only is this misinformation and misleadingly polluting the earth, but also the brains of vulnerable and trusting consumers.

This raises the problem of greenwashing, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” Basically, corporations are pretending to take eco-initiatives in order to gain public applause and profit.

Sustainable clothing has made its name known recently, whether in niche communities or conscious companies. More and more information continues to come out about fast fashion brands like Zara and Forever 21’s extremely unethical and environmentally harmful business and production practices, which allow them to lower their prices and promote the idea of quantity over quality. While a bargain deal is always appreciated, there’s a lot at risk when consuming products from corporations that only focus on cutting their cost, and — even worse — a lot market themselves to look a lot more eco-conscious than they are.

H&M, a corporation notorious for their mass amount of textile waste, has recently released a line in their brand titled the “Conscious Collection,” which sells supposedly sustainable clothing pieces. On a surface level, this seems like a huge step for the world of fast fashion, however, upon further digging, anyone can find H&M is undeniably more a part of the problem than a pioneer in the solution. 

In an article from The Guardian titled “Am I a fool to expect more than corporate greenwashing?,” writer Lucy Siegle states questions the transparency in H&M’s branding. For H&M to successfully recycle and reuse 1,000 tons of fashion waste, it would take them 12 years. While this still seems like a win in the greater scheme of things, when you find out 1,000 tons of clothes is what H&M produces in just 48 hours, the statistic gets a lot less impressive. 

So, when a company claims to be “more sustainable than ever before,” how do we know if they are telling the truth? They might never have been actually sustainable and are only making minimal efforts, but marketing it well. The only way to truly know is by doing our research as consumers. There are websites, such as Good on You, that rate fashion brand’s sustainability and ethics and are amazing tools for being responsible consumers with minimal effort. 

After all, brands cannot flourish without consumer support, so holding big corporations accountable is a huge step towards a more transparent, ethical future. All it takes is a simple search.

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