With climate change becoming a more important topic than ever, there are a few business practices cropping up that claim to aid in the fight against climate change - when really, they do anything but. One such practice is greenwashing, which is becoming more commonly used by many large retailers. Its meaning is simple. When a business places greater resources into appearing sustainable (or “green”) than actually being sustainable and environmentally friendly, they are ‘greenwashing’ their brand. The effects of this are harmful (both to the environment and the unwitting consumers who think they’re doing the right thing) and yet it’s an increasingly popular practice.
Greenwashing is used to promote a certain brand image, appealing to customers who want to make environmentally conscious decisions when shopping. It tricks them into believing they are supporting positive change or buying high-quality products, when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
Not only does greenwashing negatively affect small businesses like ours, who build our reputation on being sustainable, it also means you’re less likely to get what you pay for when you shop with a greenwashed brand. Let’s look at how to identify greenwashing in retail, and what to look for to make sure your purchases support the environment.
How to identify greenwashing in retail
A common element of greenwashing is vague language, buzzwords, and other terminology designed to give the impression of positive environmental impact. This language may seem persuasive, with words such as natural, sustainable, and environmentally friendly splashed over labels, social media, and advertisements. The adoption of ‘green’ labels is an attempt by larger brands to give the appearance of a commitment to sustainability. Ultimately however, these claims are meaningless and often give rise to low-quality ‘faux sustainable’ retail products that benefit the environment in no way, and which a customer would not otherwise have bought, were it not for the green imagery.
To avoid this, look for evidence. Genuine sustainable items typically carry certification and quantifiable evidence of organic and other eco-friendly practices. For example, at Isaac Anthony, we continue to only use Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton in our childrenswear products. This certification means that each of our products is produced with high-quality materials, in accordance with trade and labour standards, and is free from harmful chemicals throughout the entire supply chain, from farm to customer. Without this certification, quality and eco-friendly standards cannot be assured.
A step further - to ensure a company hasn’t simply sponsored their own certification, look for certification by an independent body. There are only 2 independent certification bodies for organic cotton - GOTS and Organic Content Standards.
True quality is transparent
When corporations greenwash, they actively deceive their customers who end up paying for thinly veiled fast fashion products that are lower in quality (when compared with products from genuinely sustainable retailers). When it comes to clothing for little ones, this can be especially problematic as customers may get the impression that they are dressing their child in organic, pesticide-free clothing - when they’re not.
It is a practice that not only directly harms consumers through misdirection but also leads to a widespread stigma among retailers, including smaller, independent retailers, such as ourselves, who are actively trying to make a difference by dedicating resources to eco-friendly decision-making. True quality garment production is honest and transparent about process and production.
We want to ensure transparency and that customers are comfortable and confident with their Isaac Anthony purchase. If you would like information on our product’s quality beyond our GOTS organic cotton certification, please reach out to our team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org