Fashion Greenwashing: Don’t Let Unethical Brands Trick You!

Giada Nizzoli

Fashion Greenwashing: Don’t Let Unethical Brands Trick You!

You’ve spotted this word and perhaps have even been deceived by this dishonest practice in the past, but it’s hard to figure it out if you haven’t found a clear greenwashing definition.

We’ll be honest: at Project Cece, we’re extremely fed up with corporate greenwashing. Here’s why.

What is greenwashing? A no-fluff greenwashing definition

Greenwashing (or ‘green sheen’) is the dodgy practice of conveying misleading or straight-up false information regarding a company’s production practices, falsely describing them as environmentally friendly to appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

The term was first coined in 1986 by environmentalist Jay Westerveld.

If you can forgive us for giving a slightly less objective greenwashing definition too, we think that it’s a PR stunt and a deceitful marketing trick.

While it can happen across all kinds of industries from food to (ironically) fossil fuels, greenwashing is especially popular in fashion.

Why greenwashing is bad

Greenwashing is bad for two main reasons:

  • It means that a company is getting away with selling unethical products
  • It tricks thoughtful consumers into believing they’ve just done something kind to the environment when, in reality, they’ve given their money to a fast-fashion brand or an unethical company

How do you identify greenwashing?

eco-conscious consumer checking clothes to avoid greenwashing

Sometimes it’s hard to identify greenwashing… and maybe it’s also easier to choose to believe a brand's unrealistic claims because it’s quicker and cheaper.

However, if you’re genuinely committed to making a positive impact on the planet as well as supporting companies that respect their garment workers, here are our tips on identifying the most popular greenwashing practices:

  • Look for transparency on a fashion company’s website or marketing materials: do they provide information that answers the #WhoMadeMyClothes question? Do they happen to have pictures of when they regularly visit their factories (perhaps in their blog)?
  • Scout for genuine trademarks and certifications
  • Check whether they’re using some of the most sustainable fabrics or polluting materials like traditionally grown cotton, polyester, and other synthetic fibres

Greenwashing examples

Over the past few years, more and more brands have been accused of greenwashing.

To show you what it can actually look like, here are a few greenwashing examples:

  • Using labels or phrases that are unverified or vague, like ‘100% pure/green’ or ‘certified’ without saying by whom
  • Stating that products are sustainable by focusing on a selected attribute or two while carefully hiding other dodgy practices
  • Posting corporate social responsibility statements or materials that make vague claims without data or proof that backs them up, such as "we’re committing to environmentally sustainable practices."

A famous greenwashing example is when H&M was called out by the Norwegian Consumer Authority for providing insufficient information on their supposedly sustainable range.

Finding sustainable companies that you can trust on Project Cece

Sustainable dress as opposed to greenwashing examples

While it can be tricky and time-consuming to identify greenwashing on your own, at Project Cece we’ve decided to do all the hard work so that you can concentrate on finding the right garments for your style and ethos.

In fact, we’ve gathered over 400 fair trade brands that are actually committed to better ethical and sustainable practices.

We’ve also included practical filters to help you focus on what matters the most to you, from certifications to materials.

Now that you understand the greenwashing definition, don’t let those unethical companies fool you again: support actual sustainable brands by shopping on Project Cece!

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Project Cece is a platform that collects ethical fashion from vetted brands and shops in one place. Browse ethical fashion for women and men and find items that fit your style, budget and values!

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