For a more detailed background of what greenwashing is, as well as global cases of greenwashing, I found this article on Medium really helpful.
When it comes to due diligence, I understand we don’t all have a lot of time to deep dive into brands we are interested in, so I rely heavily on apps and sites like Good on You and Marielle Elizabeth (for plus size slow fashion), to help me get a quick idea of whether I can trust a brand.
If you do have a bit of time, here are a few quick things I keep an eye out for on websites:
1 - a detailed sustainability or environmental impact section(s) OR detailed product pages: Just because a company has a sustainability page, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re free and clear (see below). You can also seek out great general information about a company’s practices (whether they use limited size runs, or deadstock, or whether all items are produced in house, etc.) and glean from that how they treat the environment and people who work for them. Ice Breaker is a great example of this. They don’t splash “sustainable” all over their site but the amount of in depth information about their fabric, manufacturing and supply chain is a great indicator of their practices.
2 - fluffy words and no substance: a sustainability page, or phrases on their “about” page that use a lot of buzz words without actually explaining what makes their fabrics eco-friendly, if they’re recycled, where their product is produced, and how they maintain ethical and environmental standards through their supply chain. Always look for supportive information to back any claim.
3 - certifications: this one is tough because as far as I know, there is no international regulation on these certifications so I am wary of assuming a company is great just because they have one. Certifications that I look for are: Certified B Corp, FSC, GOTS and 1% for the Planet. There are countless others, but these are some of the most internationally recognized.
4 - trade-offs: I’ve been fooled by this one - where a company will emphasize a strong environmental initiative in one area to divert attention away from a very unsustainable practice in another area. As an example; a company brings attention to the use of biodegradable packaging or recycled materials, but they produce many new styles on a weekly basis.
5 - match your scrutiny with your source: I think an additional dose of detective work is required when the source of any sustainability claim is coming from a brand or influencer who has never shown an interest in sustainability before. Looking for authenticity is difficult via a tiny screen, but this is where asking questions is key.
This article outlines more ways to identify greenwashing if you’re keen!