It can be challenging to invest in ethical and sustainable brands. Especially when the companies are lying to us. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is getting ready to name the biggest greenwashers in the UK fashion industry that have been collecting premiums for fake sustainability claims. CMA first started to investigate firms’ suspicious green claims in 2020, when they coordinated a global review of randomly selected websites. Initial reports indicated that around 40% of the sustainability claims could be misleading.
Source: Channel 4 News/YouTube
A 2021 study confirms that more than a third of consumers are happy to pay more for sustainable brands and that these brands carry great responsibility as a result. “Companies must invest, innovate and transform their business models now to protect their long-term profitability and viability. The rise of sustainable disruptors and increasing consumer awareness will all serve to drive the expectation for affordable sustainable alternatives,” the study explains.
But rather than investing and innovating, companies have been slapping on the “green” or “eco” logo without any proof to back it up. Cecilia Parker Aranha, CMA’s director of consumer protection told The Guardian, “We have taken the view that the growing consumer demand for green products and their willingness to pay for those green products has increased the incentive for businesses to be seen to be green, whether or not they actually are green.”
The fact that consumers are willing to pay more, speaks to rising awareness in the general public and a desire to find an ethical home for their money. Research has shown that the fashion industry will need to make fundamental changes to mitigate the damage it is inflicting on the environment. The biggest culprit is fast fashion, the report warns, and concerns over water usage, pollution, and health risks for sweatshop workers because of the heavy use of chemicals and poor working conditions all-round. And CMA’s findings may confirm that even the so-called sustainable companies are contributing to these issues.
The fashion industry is currently under heavy investigation by the CMA, and supermarkets will be next. In their research, the investigators are eager to confirm if companies are implementing sustainability standards from start to finish. “I was really skeptical about anybody that’s making a sweeping claim that a product is ‘eco’ or ‘sustainable’ because the business would be having to really show that every element of the product from production through to disposal will be good for the environment, not harmful to the environment.”
Parker Aranha explains “If you use the word ‘sustainable’, I think that really means that you have to be sustainable throughout the whole lifecycle.”
Greenwashing is a common problem that has been escalating for years, most commonly due to poor regulations and sanctions that undermine a sustainable economy. And the worst part of it may be that well-meaning consumers are losing faith in an otherwise powerful and worthy cause. Sign this petition to help eliminate fast fashion by boycotting Forever 21!
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