The difference between sustainable fashion and greenwashing
Patagonia, one of the world’s leading brands, made a major announcement recently. It was a genuine step forward in sustainable fashion, a direct statement about the apparel industry’s role in the environment, and a prime example of the difference between making a difference and greenwashing.
Who are Patagonia?
Founded in Ventura, California in 1973, Patagonia, Inc. is an American retailer of outdoor clothing.
Founder Yvon Chouinard turned his passion for rock climbing into one of the world’s most successful sportswear brands, becoming a Billionaire along the way.
Patagonia combines high-end outdoor fashion with its own brand of environmental and social activism, and it’s an environmentally conscious stance that the company was preaching years before sustainable fashion became fashionable.
The company’s mission statement is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” and they seem to have been true to their word.
A high percentage of Patagonia’s materials are made from recycled fabrics, including their polyester, nylon and wool, but it’s their opposition to Fast Fashion that really stands out. As a company, they really pride themselves on making high-quality clothes that last; long-wearing apparel that will live for years rather than end up in a landfill in 12 months.
A major announcement
Last month Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced he has given his Billion-dollar company away to a charitable trust, with the aim of fighting climate change. “Earth is now our only shareholder,” runs the headline on Patagonia’s homepage.
Patagonia will be given to a uniquely structured Trust, designed to focus all of the company’s profits on saving the planet.
The new Patagonia Purpose Trust will receive 100% of the company’s voting stock, enabling it to protect the brand’s values. 100% of the non-voting stock had been given to the Holdfast Collective, a non-profit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.
Yearly profits from the brand will be distributed as a dividend to help fight climate change.
What other brands are doing
For every company like Patagonia, there are a dozen other brands that only pretend to care about the environment.
This, of course, is where the term Greenwashing originated, a tactic used by brands to appear more sustainable than they actually are.
Trends and cycles in the fashion industry have previously been seasonal, but Fast Fashion brands have made it so that new trends never stop coming, with some brands uploading a staggering 166 individual garments to their website per day, while simultaneously declaring their eco-friendly practices.
Despite many of these famous brands pledging their “commitment to sustainability”, by deliberately greenwashing, they know exactly what they’re doing.
What needs to be done in the industry
Transparency is the key to the end of greenwashing.
The industry needs to define words that, at the moment, are being abused by companies for greenwashing purposes.
There are no legal definitions of words like sustainable, eco-friendly or ethical, allowing brands to use them in their marketing campaigns.
It may seem obvious that an influencer doesn’t know, care or represent sustainable fashion, but most of these Fast Fashion companies target young consumers, the TikTok generation, who might not be mature enough to realise what’s going on and are more susceptible to marketing campaigns.
For other businesses in the apparel industry, change starts at home.
You don’t have to be a Billion-dollar company to worry about sustainable fashion.
Doing your part will attract eco-conscious consumers.
Patagonia started doing this 50 years ago and it is still working for them today.
If you would like to know more about how your business can be more sustainable, then please contact us. We can help you with everything from ethical sourcing in the supply chain to eco-friendly packaging.