We already mentioned it in our article on honest marketing, in the fashion industry it’s not enough to be responsible, you also have to know how to communicate the sustainability commitment of your business to transmit the value behind the work developed. With the growth of greenwashing accusations against brands that use false claims in their commercial messages, data becomes an essential tool to beat misinformation. Discover how your business can communicate its values from knowledge and transparency.
Let’s start by defining the concept that has broken into the fashion industry in recent years, what is greenwashing?
It’s a marketing strategy through which a brand makes false or misleading claims about its environmental practices in order to create a favorable image for the company. The messages are often confusing, subjective and incomplete. This technique seeks for a product to be perceived as sustainable and, therefore, to be more attractive to those who seek to buy goods in line with their environmental awareness.
The refinement of companies when it comes to putting greenwashing into practice has grown so much that governments are being forced to legislate on it
Although at first it may seem easy to identify when a brand is doing greenwashing, the refinement of companies when it comes to putting it into practice has grown so much that governments are being forced to legislate on it. It’s so common that some countries are already regulating these commercial claims. This is the case of Denmark with the guide recently published by the Consumer Ombudsman with rules and practices for marketing with climate and environmental claims or the United Kingdom with the application of the Green Claims Code.
The initiatives developed by multiple organizations that seek to promote sustainability and protect consumer rights are also unmasking numerous brands that rely on this technique to develop their communication. The most recent case is the study carried out by Changing Markets Foundation, which has revealed that 59% of the environmental claims made by brands are misleading or unfounded. As evidence, they have developed an interactive microsite in which they expose some of the studied examples.
At this point, you are probably worried that your company may be implementing greenwashing involuntarily or perhaps you want to have the keys to prevent your business from being included in this list of brands that communicate dishonestly. Below we offer you a series of tips to ensure that the communication of your products is carried out with transparency.
Claims must be truthful and accurate
Companies must comply with the sustainability claims that they include in their commercial messages. For this, it’s essential to communicate information that cannot be misinterpreted and that doesn’t include exaggerations. Having data to support these claims will make the difference between those brands that use more general or imprecise concepts such as “conscious”, “responsible” or “eco-friendly”, and those that have the ability to demonstrate the basis of their claims.
- Greenwashing: Our new collection is committed to the environment.
- Good practice: Our new collection is made from 100% certified organic cotton.
Statements must be clear and unmistakable
The information must be written in a transparent and direct way so that it can be easily understood by consumers. Using complex, ambiguous terms or formulas of communication that cause confusion and create the impression that a product is more sustainable will have a negative impact on the brand image. The higher the level of consumer understanding of a brand’s sustainability work, the greater the affinity for its products.
- Greenwashing: This collection has been made with technologies that reduce water consumption.
- Good practice: We have managed to save the equivalent of 2 Olympic swimming pools in our latest collection.
Messages must not omit or hide relevant information
Information not included in marketing claims can also mislead consumers. Communication must not omit or hide data that prevents the public from making informed decisions. It’s vital that brands communicate transparently and include information regarding all the characteristics of the product, from the origin of the materials to the indications of use and disposal.
- Greenwashing: Our packaging is compostable.
- Good practice: Our packaging is compostable, put it in the organic waste container for disposal, never in domestic compost.
Comparisons must be fair and provable
The comparisons made in the sustainability claims must be based on clear, objective and updated information. The characteristics compared must be relevant and representative for the products. If CO2 emissions between two similar articles are being compared, this indicator must be calculated using the same methodology in both cases in order to guarantee that the comparison is true.
- Greenwashing: We have generated 20% less CO2 than other brands on the market.
- Good practice: We have managed to save 20% of CO2 compared to having used conventional materials.
Messages must consider the complete life cycle of the product
When making claims about their sustainability commitment, companies should consider the full life cycle of their products. This doesn’t imply that the entire value chain should be included in each commercial message, it means that when communicating impacts, these must have been calculated taking into account the entire life cycle of the products, as we pointed out in the description of LCA.
- Greenwashing: We have generated 30% less carbon emissions in the manufacture of garments. (This claim ignores the impact of the rest of life cycle stages).
- Good practice: From the extraction of raw materials to the delivery of the manufactured product, we have generated 30% less carbon emissions.
Claims must be supported by verifiable data
Since claims must be truthful and accurate, companies must have evidence to support the data they report. What measures, indicators, criteria or standards have been used when defining the sustainability work of a brand? Working with a partner like BCOME that validates the information released by the company will build trust and credibility.
- Greenwashing: Our garments are sustainable
- Good practice: Check our sustainability index powered by BCOME
Communicating the sustainability work of a fashion brand requires the same effort that the business dedicates to improving its processes. At BCOME we work hand in hand with our brave brands to ensure that the communication they develop is up to the standards of their products. Do you dare to be part of the sustainable transformation?