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How To Start Shopping More Sustainably and Spot Greenwashing

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Brand collaborations are now an everyday reality. Two brands can come together to create a collection, whether it’s unlikely pairings like Crocs & Balenciaga or luxury fashion house partnerships like Fendi & Versace. This is a great way to get some press and to imagine new product possibilities. While brand collaborations are popular, shoppers now want more than flashy fashion releases. Consumers are shifting to a sustainability mindset and expect brands to respond to the climate crisis.

Some companies are addressing this growing demand: Most recently, Tommy Hilfiger and Timberland collaborated on a collection the brands’ say is focused on sustainability, with the line featuring pieces made from “recycled wool” and “sustainable rubber.” And while fashion brands committing to be environmentally-friendly is a step in the right direction, touting sustainability ultimately doesn’t mean much without transparency.

Transparency in fashion is the disclosure of information to consumers that allows them to hold brands responsible. This includes sharing information about supply chains, business practices, and the effects of these practices on the environment and human rights. Fashion Revolution’s 2021 report assessed 250 of the largest retailers and fashion brands in the world to determine their transparency. This report will inform consumers about the social and environmental initiatives of these companies. According to the organization, consumers have difficulty trusting sustainability claims due to a lack of transparency. According to the study, only 14% of major brands reveal the total number of products produced each year. Without such information, shoppers are unable to comprehend the global scale of overproduction.

Brands must educate consumers and provide basic labeling so that they can make responsible choices. Casey Strauch is a representative of Oeko-Tex, which is an international association for research in and testing in the area of textile and leather ecology. This organization collaborates with companies around the world to test for chemical levels in textiles and issue certifications for safe products. Strauch shared tips about how consumers can spot transparency in brands and shop sustainably.

  • How can shoppers identify false sustainability claims made by fashion brands?

Strauch says that environmental claims may fall apart if there is no third-party independent testing, certification or research. Strauch warns against using catch phrases that promise sustainability, but don’t provide any details or plans. “Some buzzwords use adjectives and messaging such as ‘sustainably manufactured’, ‘clean’, ‘nontoxic’, and ‘all-natural’. These terms and standards are not universally accepted. Education and verification are key.

  • What are the key features that shoppers should look for in brands that pledge sustainability?

“Consumers need to see sustainability as a journey. You should look for specific, concrete claims that address the most important aspects of your life. Also, seek independent labels that include all factors that contribute to being environmentally friendly, including testing for harmful substances and environmentally friendly production.

Strauch recommends that you verify whether the product is sustainable and has been properly tested. She adds that consumers need to check labels and websites to make sure the claims are not being made by greenwashers.

  • Why is transparency so important for brands regarding sustainability practices?

Strauch says that many consumers don’t know the process of how clothes and textiles are made and the health risks associated with them being manufactured with toxic chemicals. He also notes that some chemicals used in textile production can be particularly harmful to babies, children and those who are allergic. It is important to raise awareness about sustainability in fashion so that consumers, companies and the planet can be protected for future generations.

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