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  • Arushi Choudhury

All about Greenwashing

Updated: Jan 16, 2022

What is Greenwashing?

Throughout the past few decades, greenwashing has appeared frequently in the fashion industry. Greenwashing is the act of companies or products appearing more environmentally friendly than they are and misleading their consumers into believing the company or product is more sustainable than it is. In marketing, companies and products exaggerate their commitment to sustainable goals and frame their business to be sustainable to attract customers.

For example, a well-known instance of greenwashing is when a car company admitted to emitting nitrogen oxide levels up to 40 times the legal protocol. Eleven million cars cheated on emission boundary tests by having devices detect when to perform with low engine power as it was being tested but switching into high engine power as soon as it was not. Overall, not only did this company lie about their eco-friendly goals and go against the government to pass emission tests, but this action also increased air pollution dramatically and left a negative impact on our environment.

In addition, a company preached for its packaging to be 100% recyclable by 2025, but environmental critics pointed out that the company did not have a clear timeline or goals as to how it will achieve its target. This is an example of when companies mislead their consumers and throw sustainability goals without having a clear understanding and measurement of those goals.

However, along with companies engaging in greenwashing practices, politicians do so as well. Some examples are when politicians throw around statements about how they will stick to certain climate change goals but once elected, they are unable to execute much of what they promised. However, pointing out when a politician greenwashes is easier than finding when a company greenwashes, which is why more emphasis is put on brands and markets.

So, how do you avoid purchasing greenwashed products and supporting greenwashing companies? One way to do so is to research the company's statements regarding eco-friendly policies. These statements include if the company is recycling packaging and is certified by organic labels. If information is unclear, vague, and broad, there is a likely chance that the company is engaging in greenwashing practices.

The opposite question also arises, how do companies avoid engaging in greenwashing practices? One way to eliminate greenwashing on websites is to communicate all impacts accurately. Companies focusing on clarity and transparency are the ones most likely to attract consumers and save our environment.

One company that follows through with its claims and does not greenwash its items is Patagonia. Patagonia received the UN Champion of the Earth award, given to companies that demonstrate outstanding actions that positively impact the environment. Patagonia has a history of clear and concise targets to benefit the environment, such as they self-imposed 1% of their tax to support environmental nonprofits working to defend land and water globally. Patagonia also has a history of donating to sustainable nonprofits and also engaging in sustainable practices within the workplace, such as collecting and reusing their fabric and hosting a platform to purchase second-hand Patagonia clothes.

Now more than ever is time to change shopping habits to account for sustainable companies and products. As winter approaches, take a few minutes to find sustainable places and companies around you to purchase warm winter gear. These places include thrift shops, your parent's closet, or sustainable shops you've researched. I've included some of my favorite seasonal finds from Patagonia's website down below as a starting point!

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