In part 1, we defined greenwashing and gave a few specific examples for you to watch out for. In this next post, we’re going to cover why greenwashing is an issue for consumers (and other businesses), and what can be done to address the issue.
Sportswear's Sustainable Image
Greenwashing refers to the deceptive practice of misleading consumers about the environmental and ethical attributes of a product or company. It involves overstating or falsely advertising the sustainability efforts of a brand, ultimately misleading customers into believing they are making a positive choice for the environment.
One of the most infamous and transparent examples of greenwashing dates back to 2001, when BP tried to rebrand itself as Beyond Petroleum. They then went on to cause one of the worst environmental disasters in history due to “gross negligence and reckless conduct”? They attempted this rebrand because they knew the greenhouse gases they released were going to cause environmental disaster back in the 1970’s, They could see a shift towards a ‘green narrative’ coming in the early 2000’s. Beyond Petroleum was an oil company's attempt to distance itself from the dirtiest industry of all; oil.
However, most greenwashing is simply not this obvious. Let’s look at some more subtle examples.
Implications of Greenwashing
The implications of greenwashing in the sportswear industry are far-reaching and impact both consumers and the environment.
- Consumer Misinformation: Greenwashing misleads consumers, making it difficult for them to make informed decisions. When customers believe they are purchasing sustainable products, they may unknowingly support environmentally harmful practices.
- Erosion of Trust: Greenwashing erodes trust between brands and consumers. When companies overstate their sustainability efforts, they risk damaging their reputation and losing loyal customers.
- Diversion of Resources: While brands invest in green marketing campaigns and glossy advertisements, the actual resources required to implement substantial sustainability measures may be neglected. Greenwashing diverts attention and resources from genuine sustainability initiatives.
- Environmental Impact: Genuine sustainability efforts require comprehensive changes across the entire supply chain. Greenwashing hinders progress by discouraging brands from implementing true sustainable practices, perpetuating the industry's negative impact on the environment.
To combat greenwashing in the sportswear industry, various stakeholders need to take action:
- Consumer Education: Consumers should educate themselves about sustainability and scrutinise brands' claims before making purchasing decisions. Look for certifications, such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), Bluesign®, or GRS (Global Recycling Standard) that ensure specific environmental and ethical standards are met.
- Increased Regulation: Governments and regulatory bodies play a vital role in enforcing stricter guidelines for environmental claims and ensuring transparency. Implementing regulations that standardise sustainable labelling practices can help prevent greenwashing.
- Accountability and Transparency: Sportswear brands need to be accountable for their sustainability claims. They should provide detailed information about their supply chains, manufacturing processes, and certifications. Independent audits and third-party certifications can help establish trust.
- Industry Collaboration: Collaboration among sportswear brands, industry associations, and NGOs can facilitate the sharing of best practices, set industry-wide standards, and hold companies accountable for their sustainability claims.
- Support Transparent Brands: Choose to support brands that are transparent about their sustainability initiatives and progress. Look for brands that go beyond symbols and tags and provide detailed information on their sustainable practices.
Greenwashing in the sportswear industry poses a significant challenge to genuine sustainability efforts. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, it is crucial to distinguish between meaningful sustainability practices and mere marketing tactics. By demanding transparency, supporting brands with genuine commitments, and advocating for stricter regulations, we can encourage the sportswear industry to move beyond greenwashing and towards a truly sustainable future.