Is fashion really getting ‘sustainable’ or is it just ‘greenwashing’


In the past few months, fashion showbiz, award ceremonies, events are spiking up as the world is coming out of the pandemic scare. One thing is common in most of the events – almost all celebrities, social media influencers grabbed attention by wearing a sustainably made dress.

For instance, Northern Irish singer and presenter Hannah Peel wore an eco-friendly rainbow dress – based on the Pantone color chart.

Figure: “Circularity” is a buzzword in the fashion industry. 

Peel said that her dress at this month’s Mercury Prize ceremony used no chemicals, it uses 90% less water than it would if it was another material.

“Circularity” is a buzzword in the fashion industry. As currently, the fashion industry emits about 10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater. According to United Nations Climate Change, it also uses up more energy than the air travel and shipping industries combined.

Fast fashion brands explicitly discard a culture of throwaway fashion that’s been accelerated by the rise of online fast-fashion retailers.

Besides, the broader community is raising questions regarding their supply chain mismatches. Which now and then surfaces in various apparel manufacturing countries.

Also, companies that pay social media influencers to promote and front their brands, can face reproach over claims of worker exploitation, and environmentally harmful working practices.

In May 2021, research was done by the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) looked at 10,000 items being sold by garment websites Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, Missguided and Asos.

The research specified that of 2,500 recently added clothing items from each website, 49% were made of plastics such as polyester, acrylic, nylon and elastane.

Josie Warden, Co-author of the report said, “The sheer volume of clothing produced by these websites is shocking – we should see many of these items, which go for rock-bottom prices, as akin to other short-lived plastics. The nature of fast fashion trends means they are not designed to have long lives in our wardrobes.”

Most major brands pledged to be sustainable. But experts caution these initiatives can be little more than ‘greenwashing’ – utilizing in on a marketing trend rather than an extensive business change.

BBC Scotland’s Conscious Closet series outlines three red flags to look out for:

  • Action not words – there’s currently no formal or legal definition for many sustainability buzzwords, so look for evidence on the brand’s website to back up their claims
  • Look at a brand’s whole offering – how much of it is appears sustainable? One collection doesn’t add up to genuine change
  • Sustainability isn’t necessarily ethical – workers may still be exploited during the production of clothes made from more sustainable fabrics