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It is no news that the fashion design industry is among the top five most polluting global contributors in the world. With fast fashion coming into existence and its explosive ways of producing the latest trends at lightning speeds and discarding them away even faster, it can become an environmental nightmare for the world we live in.
Nowadays, growing awareness of sustainability has led to the emergence of green marketing and the idea of pushing products that support the environment. But on the flip side, some fashion labels are exploiting it, creating the concept of greenwashing, but at ground level, there are little to no better practices being implemented. The minutest fractions from the entire brand’s portfolio with eco-friendly techniques are marketed to represent the complete brand.
Legitimate promotion of environmentally friendly fashion products or fashion practices.
Misleading or deceptive marketing that falsely claims a fashion product or fashion brand to be environmentally friendly.
Genuine commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.
Deceptive intent to appear environmentally friendly without making substantial efforts.
Transparent communication about eco-friendly practices, backed by evidence.
Lack of transparency, often with vague or unsubstantiated claims about sustainability.
Emphasis on promoting products with verifiable eco-friendly features or benefits.
Exaggerated or false claims about a product's environmental benefits.
Use of legitimate eco-labels and certifications to validate environmental claims
Misuse or misrepresentation of eco-labels or certifications to create a false impression of sustainability.
Demonstrates a consistent and long-term commitment to sustainability goals.
Short-term or superficial efforts to capitalise on the growing demand for eco-friendly products.
Provides clear information to help consumers make informed choices about environmentally friendly products.
Relies on confusion and misinformation to make consumers believe a product is more sustainable than it actually is.
Table: Difference between green marketing and greenwashing
Fast fashion has been in the news for some time. It actually means a quicker way of designing a garment, production, distribution and marketing a product so as to give the most trendy or hot-selling options to its consumers. Because consumers want these products faster, they purchase them at a much lower price with compromised quality, which ultimately leads the clothes to end up in landfills.
Prominent global fast fashion brands such as Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 have been at the forefront of this industry. The term "fast fashion" emerged in the 1990s, but as times evolved, a more advanced concept emerged in 2006 ushering in the era of ultra-fast fashion brands. Brands like Shein and Boohoo.com exemplify this ultra-fast fashion category, pushing the boundaries of speed and efficiency in the fashion supply chain.
Due to the widespread production and disposal of garments, coupled with growing consumer awareness of the environmental impact caused by fast fashion, these brands have faced increased scrutiny from consumers. By doing so, these brands aim to portray a positive image of their commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility in the eyes of their customers. This shift reflects a broader acknowledgment within the industry of the need to address environmental concerns and foster a more sustainable approach to fashion.
Green marketing is advertising in a way that promotes products that support and relate to the environment and conservation. It symbolises making clothes and accessories with processes to reduce or create no impact on mother nature. Now, we are going to be discussing some green marketing strategies adopted by popular fast-fashion and ultra-fast-fashion brands.
The idea of endorsing these ways is to improve the credibility of the brand by showcasing customers' commitment to the environment, creating a positive public image to enhance perception and social responsibility, manufacturing products that support the habitat and are cost-saving through increased operational efficiency, waste reduction, resource optimisation, getting a boost in overall revenue, attracting more investors who support the environment, engaging audiences, and significantly reducing the negative environmental impact.
Adidas collaborated with Parley for the Oceans, an environmental organisation founded by Cyrill Gutsch in 2012. Their mission is to transform kilos of gillnet after cleaning and drying and use it for textile suppliers like Adidas to make high-performance polyester yarn into a full-fledged shoe. Due to this, Adidas has used recycled polyester rather than virgin polyester for certain lines of footwear and apparel.
With "Prime Blue," the team at Parley has created a high-performance yarn not just for Adidas but for the entire sports industry. They have also created 30 million pairs of shoes with Parley Ocean Plastic by 2020.
Additionally, Adidas has developed a 100% recyclable shoe called “Futurecraft Loop,” which is made without using any glue. This shoe can be returned to Adidas at the end of the product life cycle, and it can be broken down and recycled into brand new footwear.
After facing public backlash on fast fashion, Zara has decided to use more recycled and sustainable farmed crops to reduce its impact on the environment by 2025. The brand has decided to move towards a circular model for fashion to reduce the impact of tonnes of garments landing in a landfill. They have also promised to eliminate single-use plastics for customers by the end of 2023. They have already removed single-use plastic shopping bags from all of their stores. And by 2025, they plan to use more sustainable linen and recycled polyester.
Zara launched the “Join Life” campaign. This engagement was to work on various stages of the value chain to alternate the holistic approach, starting from designing the products in a certain manner to choosing fabrics carefully to source and store garments and accessories. This campaign also talks about repairing the garment, reselling it, and creating used garments for donation drives to promote a more circular and ethical model.
Decathlon acknowledges the significant amount of waste generated annually, prompting them to minimise packaging. For example, many of their shoes are not packaged in boxes. Products such as Quechua MH500 and the Folding Camping Chair utilise bi-ton (two-tone) fabric, where 1 out of every 2 threads is dyed, resulting in reduced water consumption.
Decathlon has also teamed up with the Plastic Leak Project (PLP), using recycled material to manufacture water bottles and trek-insulated jackets. Their idea was to take steps to better protect our planet.
Fabindia has already come with a line of carpets, rugs, desktop accessories, and bags made from recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) yarn. They use the “Gudri” technique to make clothing collections. The Gudri technique helps in putting all scrap patches from tailors and textile factories together to make something useful out of waste. This collection is called the "Shunya Collection." The amalgamation of traditional weaves with a modern approach is time-consuming and hard work, but it also makes the product durable and strong, increases their lifespan, and offers a livelihood to the artisans. The collection boasts geometric patterns in various colours. They are long-lasting, stain-resistant, and low-maintenance in nature.
Nicobar has not only adapted sustainability in their garments by offering clothes made mostly from organic cotton, reusing packaging cartons multiple times, and using paperless invoicing, but also through their café, NicoCaara, to promote a fresh menu with pesticide-free produce.
They have crafted a collection of wooden homewares. They have also launched a line of recycled glass homewares by melting and reshaping unwanted glass products.
Anita Dongre's notable sustainability endeavour includes her brand "Grassroot." This brand, nestled under the Anita Dongre umbrella, is dedicated to preserving Indian handcrafted traditions by seamlessly transforming them into contemporary and sustainable fashion. The brand collaborates with remote villages, ensures fair wages and thus gives them a better livelihood to create handcrafted, eco-friendly clothing.
Some brands present themselves as sustainable to cultivate an image of environmental friendliness in customers' minds, aiming to enhance sales. However, this approach can be perceived as a form of manipulation, influencing customers' perceptions.
Greenwashing is the practice of misleading marketing strategies, labels, or advertising to create a false impression about the sustainability of products which support the environment in the minds of consumers. This also means exaggerating positive contributions or using manipulative terminologies to confuse customers—which is an unethical practice in the fashion industry.
Fashion brands engage in various misleading practices, and a significant number (39%, according to a study) make false sustainability claims to customers. Companies may look environmentally responsible but are continuing to pollute the world we live behind closed doors. Notable international brands like H&M, Shein, Boohoo, and Decathlon have been implicated. Now let’s discuss some cases of how fashion brands brainwash their customers.
Exaggerated marketing language, since no one is supervising these fashion brands, they use terms like “environment-friendly”, “reuse” or “sustainable” only for face value, to portray themselves as a sustainable brand. For instance, H&M’s Looop campaign was launched on Earth Day, where the fashion brand talks about recycling and reusing products often to reduce the garbage in landfills. But the irony of this campaign is that H&M makes 3 billion garments every year. Some recycling cannot change the damage done by H&M.
Looop uses a technique that disassembles and assembles old garments into new ones. The garments are cleaned, shredded into fibres and spun into new yarn which is then knitted into new fashion finds. Some sustainably sourced virgin materials need to be added during the process, and we of course work to make this share as small as possible. The system uses no water and no chemicals, thus having a significantly lower environmental impact than when producing garments from scratch.
Companies sometimes use generic terminology to distract customers from the truth. For instance, Mango uses Mango Committed as the name for products which they feel are sustainable. This may be confusing for customers since there is no third party which can authenticate it. On their website, it says they are into the circular design but nowhere it is mentioned what steps are taken by the brand to maintain it.
“Mango Committed” also claims that they are transparent, for instance, they claim they share the details of the suppliers they work with who make products ethically, but nowhere that sort of important information is disclosed on the website or otherwise.
In an advertisement, it was claimed that Adidas’s Stan Smith is “100% iconic, 50% recycled.” But where it was studied in depth it misled consumers. It seemed like shoppers had the impression that 50% of the total material used in the sneaker is made of recycled materials, which wasn’t true. The only thing which was missing was the logo on the shoe.
This is across all ultra-fast fashion brands, their production a year is one or two billion garments and no chance of slowing down the manufacturing is another act against sustainability where brands claim to be using smarter materials, do fewer textile waste, talk about sustainable packaging, but they are the opposite of that. For instance, brands like Asos, Boohoo Group, Fashion Nova, Shein etc.
This is across all fashion brands where brands are making vague claims to trick customers into buying products. Zara has promised to be more transparent and released new sustainability targets, but they were vague. Inditex, Zara’s parent company, said that it would only use cotton, linen, and polyester that was “organic, more sustainable, or recycled” over the next six years. What does “more sustainable” mean in this context? On Zara’s website, it is mentioned that it will use a 25% reduction of water consumption in the supply chain but again it sounds vague because nowhere it is mentioned how this brand will proceed.
In conclusion, although there are fashion brands who do green marketing to push products, create a positive mindset, increase the credibility about their brand in consumer’s eyes, primarily fashion brands need to be supervised by a third party to be able to tell if their products are actually supporting the environment or it’s just a coax to attract eyeballs and boost sales. Secondly, consumers have to be made more aware and vigilant about the fashion products and their impact on the environment.
They must put some pressure on brands to give better and more truthful information.
Brands should also be transparent and reliable certification can help understand the guarantee of any products, for instance, cotton should be only sourced under the Better Cotton Initiative, a not-for-profit organisation which guides farmers to make sustainable cotton in the most efficient practices. These sorts of initiatives can ensure quality and sustainability.
- Loved reading this piece by Shraddha? She has also written about fashion merchandising as a career choice, and the 5 Rs of fashion merchandising—both comprehensive and effective.
- If you’re still looking to learn more about the fashion industry, this piece lays a good foundation—it talks about principles and elements of fashion design.
- Do you ever wonder how your favourite trends are born! Check out this piece discussing discussing 'The Impact Of Pop Culture On Fashion & Aesthetics'—because your style's secret story begins here.
- If you’re looking for clarity about a career in fashion design, here’s an impressive list of things you learn at a fashion design college.
- Unlock the essence of fashion design in seconds with this video. Discover the stylish shift to sustainability with Mr. Nohar Nath, Founder of Kiabza! Tune in to IIAD Design Talks and stay ahead of the fashion curve.
Shraddha Kochar, a Delhi native, has seamlessly woven her life through the fabric of the fashion industry over the past 7+ years, garnering diverse experience in startups, national brands, e-commerce, exports, and the education sector. A mysteriou ...
sly serendipitous shift led her into the realm of education, where she found her stride and never looked back. Beyond her professional endeavors, Shraddha is an avid traveler with a passion for exploring diverse culinary landscapes. Her eclectic interests span reading about fashion, lifestyle brands, fiction, fitness, personal finance, and philosophy. Notably, she has embraced a conscious lifestyle, aligning herself with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In both her professional and personal pursuits, Shraddha Kochar epitomizes a commitment to growth, sustainability, and a holistic approach to life.
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