The Debrief: Fashion’s Greenwashing Problem | The Business of Fashion

In a sea of unsubstantiated claims about sustainability, BoF’s Sarah Kent explains why it’s so hard to measure impact, and what sort of regulation could be coming for fashion. Follow The Debrief wherever you listen to your podcasts.


Concern about the environmental impact of clothing has swelled in the past few years. So too, has the practice of greenwashing. Right now, fashion marketing is flooded with eco-conscious messaging as brands dub their products “sustainable” without doing the groundwork to back up declarations. Consumers and regulatory parties are starting to demand more.

“What we’re seeing is companies wanting to talk more about this, consumers wanting to know more about this, and regulators really sitting up,” said chief sustainability correspondent Sarah Kent. “It’s this perfect storm where something that has been an issue that needed to be addressed for a long time is coming to a head.”

Key Insights:

– With little oversight outside voluntary inter-industry initiatives and no regulation, a sustainable marketing free-for-all has swept over fashion.
– European policymakers looking to crackdown on greenwashing are currently considering legislation about how impact across various environmental areas can be measured.
– Several snags have inhibited any real progress on measuring sustainability, including bad data, tangled methodologies, and the presence of complex social factors that go beyond ecological impact.
– Some brands have begun efforts to increase transparency and show consumers information on why their products are more or less sustainable. H&M has started to give items nutrition-style labels that tell buyers things like what level its materials rank on a scale of better alternatives. Allbirds attributes carbon calorie counts to its products, so consumers understand associated emissions.

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ABOUT THE BUSINESS OF FASHION: The Business of Fashion is a next-generation fashion media company conceived for today’s global and hyper-connected world. Founded in 2007 by Imran Amed, BoF is known for its authoritative, agenda-setting point of view on the global fashion industry, and is an indispensable resource for fashion executives, creatives, students, and entrepreneurs in over 200 countries. It has been described as “The Economist of Fashion,” “A Daily Destination for Fashion’s Power Players”, and “The Industry Bible”,


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