GREENWASHING: SALES PITCH, SIMPLE TREND OR A SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVE?
Greenwashing is an anglophone term that flourishes everywhere, and literally means "ecological bleaching"
It was born from the desire of brands to buy back an image from consumers, by adopting environmentally friendly production and distribution methods. With mass marketing and mass communication campaigns, big brands (often multinationals) use greenwashing to restore their reputation.
Who has not heard of the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013 that killed more than 1,000 people, a factory that employed nearly 5,000 men and women making clothes for brands such as Mango, Benetton and Primark? This catastrophe has highlighted in the eyes of the whole world the terrible working conditions in which our cheap clothes are made, and has awakened the consumer enthusiasm for the eco-responsibility of the major brands.
Rana Plaza´s Collapse in Dacca
From this terrible accident (which could have been avoided), beautiful initiatives have emerged, like the documentary The True Cost, realized in 2015 by Andrew Morgan and recounting textile making in fast-fashion banners such as H & M, Zara or Uniqlo.
Carry Somers, a British pioneer in ethical and responsible fashion, and the creator of the Pachacuti brand, launched the Fashion Revolution Day movement in 2014. She invites internet users from all over the world to post on social networks a photo of them and their clothing purchase with the apparent label, using the hashtag #whomademyclothes. The aim is to ask the public opinion about the cost and the dysfunction of the textile industry and the often opaque provenance of our clothes. Thanks to its success, the British movement celebrated its third edition this year, and even set up its neighborhoods for a week in Paris at the end of April.
Greenwashing, despite its rather demagogic nature at first glance, makes it possible to awaken consciences, and has the advantage of creating a more responsible mode of consumption.
However, make no mistake: some brands are hiding behind an "ecological" positioning for the sole purpose of selling more and enhancing its image. The Swedish brand H & M is the perfect example of this. For a few years now, it has been praising the H & M Conscious line of eco-friendly clothing made from environmentally friendly materials (biological cotton and polyester). If we can only applaud the initiative, no one tells us by whom and under what conditions these clothes are made and the rest of the collection. Let's not forget that the H & M brand is the symbol par excellence of fast-fashion, because of the constant renewal of its collections.
Faced with these often misleading initiatives, how can we find a way to adopt a more ethical mode of consumption?
First, do some research on the brand: is it transparent about its production methods? Where does it make its products? What are the raw materials used to make the products? Does it have a fair trade label? If it manufactures in an underdeveloped country, does it participate in donation programs to local populations?
Also be careful not to underestimate the price of the products: although a cheaper product can be attractive, especially if your budget is limited, cheap products can also be due to low labor cost to the detriment of the working conditions of the employees. It is better to favor quality to quantity, is not it?