How to tell if a Brand is Green or just Greenwashing

As sustainable fashion and other eco-friendly products become more mainstream, companies are latching onto this trend—some with intentions of actually becoming more eco-friendly and others who are just trying to make customers think they are ecologically responsible: A.K.A brands that are greenwashing.

This is especially becoming a problem with fast fashion brands launching more responsibly made collections or making marketing claims that they’re going “green”. Ethical fashion thought-leader, Livia Firth recently was quoted in The Guardian, “we have turned a corner finally. It is a beautiful moment, but it is also very dangerous. Fast fashion is the first offender in sustainability and there is greenwashing at a level there has never been before”.

In fact, some fast-fashion retailers are even being investigated or warned by authorities and watchdogs for exaggerating their sustainability claims. H&M was recently criticized by the Norwegian Customer Authority for “misleading” marketing of their Conscious Collection because “the information given regarding sustainability was not sufficient, especially given that the Conscious Collection is advertised as a collection with environmental benefits.”

Not to mention, these fast-fashion companies rarely acknowledge the wastefulness and excessiveness of their core business models. While using more eco-friendly materials and dyes is certainly a step in the right direction, the pace of production and consumption just isn’t “sustainable” if you consider that the definition of the word is taken to mean that the current practice can be maintained at that rate or level endlessly. After all, even renewable resources can be consumed at a faster rate than they can renew.

While we would love to make this a simple post and say, to avoid brands that are greenwashing, just don’t shop at fast fashion stores… the reality is that the issue goes far beyond the fast fashion industry.

The reason to write this blog is to emphasize that we can all be fooled by overstated or false claims of sustainability from brands. It’s a continual learning process to be able to identify greenwashing.

So, don’t be hard on yourself if you have bought from a brand that wasn’t as earth-friendly or people-friendly as they may have stated. The more research we do individually and the more we collectively share what we know and dive deep into the claims from these brands, the better we’ll all be at deciphering the green from the greenwashing.

We have learnt a few tips and tricks to discern which brands to trust—and which ones to skip. This post is dedicated to sharing what we’ve learnt.

1. Always look for details and specific data

It’s crucial to look for as many details as possible when brands make statements about their eco-friendliness. It’s not enough for a brand to say made from “sustainable fabric”. Look at what fabric it is. For instance, some brands which say eco vegan leather, when actually they’re using toxic PVC made from petroleum. Yes, it’s vegan—but it’s certainly not sustainable.

Or when a brand says natural fibers, be sure to check which fibers are being used and what percentage of the piece is made from those natural fibers.

At ZIVELI we are very transparent about the raw materials we use.

All our straw bags are either made completely with kauna or palm.

When we use other raw materials, like malai, naturally tanned leather, jute, cotton etc. We always mention the full details of the same.

2. Look into a brand’s “About” and/or “Sustainability” pages

You can learn a lot about what a brand is or isn’t doing by diving into their About pages. Again: the more specific the better!

Does the brand just say “we use conscious materials” and we have “mindful production”? Or, does the brand say, we use Tencel and GOTS-certified Organic Cotton, pay above Fair Trade wages, provide healthcare benefits for workers, and ensure all garment workers never work more than X hours per week. The latter is what to look for! Photos, videos, certifications, and/or proof of audits are also great things to be on the lookout for.

If it’s a larger brand, look for a Sustainability Report that details their environmental impact and the progress they are making. Are the brand’s sustainability measures or goals specific? How are they holding themselves accountable to those goals? How regularly are they publishing their progress? Have they met their previous goals? What kind of investments in resources (time and money) are they making to reach these goals?

Ziveli is an Earth-conscious lifestyle product brand with a bohemian personality. We promote sustainable living. Therefore, all our bags and baskets are crafted in rural India by marginalised communities using only natural fibres.

Our products are handmade using indigenous techniques that have been passed down through the generations. Furthermore, we abstain from mass-production. Instead, we work with grassroots cooperatives and artisans.

Each of our bags is meticulously handcrafted for days by our artisans, many of whom learnt to weave and sew from their mothers.

After travelling far and wide in search of long-forgotten crafts, we at Ziveli have built a community of expert women artisans to deliver the finest of handmade products.

We work with cooperatives and artisans and pay them a fair, living wage. We also ensure that they have a safe, comfortable and clean working environment.

Commitment to sustainability is at the core of our brand. Thus, all our products are made with 100% natural and innovative plant fibres. Vegan leather made from coconut waste, unbleached cotton, Jute, Sabai grass, and Kauna reed are some of the sustainable materials we use in our handbag and home decor collection.

These fibres are biodegradable and sourced locally from farmers and cooperatives, thereby greatly reducing our carbon footprint.

Stay connected with us on https://www.facebook.com/ziveliindia/

Where we regularly share photos and videos of our artisans, how our products are made, etc.

3. Check for third-party validations

For larger brands, we recommend checking the Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index. For all size brands, check out the Good On You directory or app, DoneGood’swebsite or browser plugin, and Remake’s approved Sustainable brands.

Also, looking for trusted certifications, like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), B-Corp, and Fair Trade Certified, while not perfect, can be an added level of assurance that the brand is walking the walk and not just greenwashing.

This is a great go-to resource breaking down the various sustainability and ethical certifications you may see on product tags or fashion brand websites.

We at ZIVELI work directly with artisans which economically stimulates neighbourhoods and provides jobs for marginalised women. As a result, today ZIVELI links over 200 rural artisans to modern urban markets, thereby creating a base for skilled, sustainable rural employment, and preserving India’s traditional handicrafts in the process.

We are listed on a few concious brand directories like pasithea – https://www.pasithea.in/accessories

4. Prioritize fashion brands going the extra mile

While a brand using earth-friendly fabrics such as linen for its garments is really exciting, the brand could certainly still have a large environmental footprint. To get a more holistic view of the brand’s impact, look for other sustainability initiatives the brand is taking.

Do they use renewable energy to power their workshops or factories? Do they have water recycling? What efforts are they taking to reduce or eliminate waste in production? Does the brand use recycled or compostable shipping materials?

Our aim at ZIVELI is to make unique, handmade, naturally derived products which are not mass-produced to curtail the use of machinery and energy consumption.

We also try to be as sustainable as possible, by using reused cardboard boxes and rolls for our shipping.

5. Confirm the brand has plans to improve

Sustainability is a continual journey. So, we always prefer brands that are constantly evolving: i.e. ones that are announcing new initiatives or are revealing their specific goals to reduce their carbon footprint or waste.

These efforts demonstrate that the brand has the right intentions and that improving their ecological footprint is a core value for them. It shows that as the industry learns more about the environmental impact of various fabrics, dyes, processes, etc., they are willing to learn and improve.

At ZIVELI our focus is on improving the lives of our artisans, adding more women to our clusters, and working with new and innovative material which integrate and showcase the crafts of India.

We hope that these tips to avoid greenwashing have helped! If you have any additional questions or anything to add, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or send us an email on contact@ziveli.in

Looking for a conscious fashion brand to trust?

Log on to http://www.ziveli.in

This blog is inspired by Alexa

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