What’s Going On Here?
Changing Markets Foundation, a sustainability campaign group, just released their latest report into the fashion industry. The report, titled ‘Licence to Greenwash’, found that the industry’s biggest and most well known sustainability schemes “facilitate greenwashing”.
What Does This Mean?
Ten schemes were analysed including well known ones such as WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), bluesign, EU Ecolabel and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Several are certification labels, others multi-stakeholder initiatives and some provide tools for sustainability self-assessment.
All of the schemes are voluntary, all have high levels of industry buy-in and all were found to be not fit for purpose. The report highlighted key issues with a lack of ambition, accountability and oversight.
The report release date was timely as it precedes the release of the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textile. The EU strategy is expected to provide a timeline for introduction of mandatory requirements for the fashion industry.
Additionally, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has promised to put businesses that greenwash “on notice”.
Why Should We Care?
The number of voluntary sustainability schemes in the fashion industry has ballooned. This would appear to show progress is being made but in fact the fashion industry’s impact has been getting continually worse. Consumption is growing and utilisation (the number of times a garment is worn) is falling. This has been enabled by cheap globalised manufacturing, cheap synthetic fibres i.e. those derived from fossil fuels and a lack of regulation and legislation.
Environmental and social issues associated with fashion industry practices are multiple and unjust. The industry is linked to exploitation of people and resources throughout the supply chain. As well as environmental pollution such as microplastics in water supplies and mountains of discarded clothing going to landfill.
The mere existence of the schemes investigated by the Changing Markets Foundation helps the fashion industry to sweep these issues under the carpet and that just isn’t right.
Checkout greenwash.com for tips on how to identify greenwashing.
*Main image credit – “Pangaia – The Forest Collection” (Pangaia are active in reducing greenwashing)