Are Big Brands Lying about Sustainability?
News has recently broken of H&M being investigated by the Norwegian Consumer Association, who claim that they have been illegally misleading consumers about the sustainability of their clothes. These accusations are being made against the Swedish labels "Conscious" line, with the Norwegian authorities being unhappy about the vagueness of the clothing descriptions.
As sustainability becomes an increasingly powerful buzzword in marketing, something like this happening was, unfortunately, inevitable.
Greenwashing is being done regularly by powerful corporations to place themselves in a positive light while doing very little to fight the current environmental disasters that are happening on our doorstep. Major companies such as Mcdonalds, Coca Cola and Shell have all been accused of the practice in the past.
For H&M, this is not their first time having the word thrown at them, previous sustainability incentives from the fashion label have put them in hot water, such as their recycling week that ended up being ousted as a scam that fuels fast fashion and makes minimal change in the grand scheme of things.
More high-street labels with tainted ethical pasts are also jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon, namely, Primark and Zara have both introduced sustainable lines which on the surface sound promising. The problem is that, first of all, using materials such as organic cotton is brilliant but when it is not fairtrade and being produced in a poorly operated factory that releases toxic chemicals into the air and ocean - is it really that progressive? Covering up these important details and creating vague "aims" are making brands look like they're trying to be sustainable, while doing the bare minimum.
High fashion is as much to blame as the high-street though, as every big label from Burberry to Gucci is hitting the headlines for no longer using fur, the huge environmental impact of creating fake fur is quietly going unmentioned.
The biggest name at fault in high fashion has to be Vivienne Westwood. Her attempts to align herself with sustainability have been extensive, to say the least, ranging from fashion shows with long dialogues about climate change to driving a tank to former Prime Minister David Cameron's house to protest fracking. However, when trying to find any information about how the designer's clothes help the environment we found, to put it simply: f*** all! Infact, rankabrand, who rate labels based on their sustainability credentials, gave Westwood the lowest possible score.
Although we love seeing great work being done by brands thanks to consumer pressure, greenwashing is a real technique being used so big companies can use your climate fears to make money. For now, we're sticking to brands like Katherine Hamnett and Patagonia, who know how to be completely transparent about their clothing production, and buying vintage - of course!