what is greenwashing

All you need to know about 'greenwashing'

what is greenwashing

No, this isn’t some new natural skincare treatment taking over TikTok, greenwashing is about environmental ethics – or the lack thereof. 

Increasingly, people are becoming more and more aware of the impact that their purchasing decisions have on the planet. Ditching the fast fashion and opting to endorse the circular economy instead, shoppers are choosing ethically made clothing that doesn’t harm the planet.

With a demand for ethical shopping comes more ethical and sustainable businesses, but also businesses attempting to capitalise on the growing desire for sustainable products without actually changing their business models. In this blog, we guide you through everything you need to know about greenwashing, including what it actually is, why greenwashing is bad, how businesses can avoid greenwashing and how Reliked are tackling greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is when a company makes false claims about how environmentally sound their business, products and services are in order to attract customers who are conscious about sustainability.

This can involve perpetuating a completely false narrative about the environmental impact of a company, or exaggerating the environmentally friendly aspects of a business and ignoring those that are not eco-conscious. Whether this be the way in which the products are made or how materials are sourced, some aspects of the business are concealed.

Intended to deceive, greenwashing portrays a company as more environmentally sound than it actually is, hiding the damaging aspects of the business. In these instances, a company portrays their environmentally sound practices as their entire business foundation – and consequently their business as a ‘green’ one. 

Oftentimes, companies that are in essence fast fashion brands – when clothing is mass produced for low cost using unsustainable methods to get it to stores quicker – try to hide this part of their business model by emphasising the more sustainable parts of their business. Sometimes, they even wrongfully claim to be part of the circular economy, a model of production and consumption that uses sustainable methods such as refurbishing, recycling and sharing of materials and products. However, consumers are becoming more and more aware of greenwashing and its consequences.

Why is greenwashing bad?

Greenwashing is inherently wrong as it exploits customers’ good intentions. Companies that are guilty of greenwashing capitalise on the environmental ethics of their customers in an attempt to sell more products, sometimes at a higher price.

Products that are ‘green’ – sustainable, vegan or natural – usually cost more to produce. As green companies avoid production methods that are harmful to the planet or unethical, as well as committing to sourcing materials in a sustainable way, these products are often charged at a premium.

The problem comes when companies claim to use these planet-friendly sourcing and production methods, but in fact stick with their methods that aren’t sustainable. Highly unethical, greenwashing is deceitful and attempts to use a ‘green façade' in order to charge customers more money, and secure more sales with those who are environmentally conscious. 

How to avoid greenwashing

Inadvertent greenwashing is a major problem – where brands don’t necessarily set out to lie to their customers, but conceal some parts of their business model from them. Here’s how to avoid greenwashing as a business.

1. Transparency is key

When trying to avoid inadvertent greenwashing, it is essential to be fully transparent with your consumers about the nature of your business. This includes every aspect of your business, from sourcing materials and producing items all the way through to packaging and shipping methods.

Transparency when setting sustainability goals is essential too. What do you want to achieve? When do you want to achieve it? How will you achieve it? 

2. Use data to give credibility to claims

Whatever claims you are making about the planet-friendly nature of your business, it’s incredibly important to back them up with accurate statistics. If you claim to source your materials in a sustainable way, how do you source them? Where do you source them from? Are the workers paid fairly?

Any ‘green’ claims that you can’t back up with more information and data, consider whether they actually apply to your company at all.

3. Advertise your product and ethics, not someone else’s

Advertising campaigns are where a lot of greenwashing occurs. With social media in particular being such a huge advertising platform with immense reach, it’s important to ensure that the information you present to potential customers is accurate. 

Don’t claim to be a vegan company if you haven’t become a certified vegan company with the likes of The Vegan Society. The same goes for claiming to be sustainable if you in fact use a fast fashion business model.

Your advertising needs to be 100% accurate to your product and company, not what you hope it will become. 

How is Reliked challenging greenwashing? 

We know how important it is to operate with transparency and recognise our responsibility to operate in a way that is the most eco-friendly and sustainable. Find out how Reliked is challenging the notion of greenwashing and presenting a sustainable alternative for consumers.

Preloved not produced

At Reliked, we don’t produce the clothes and items we sell on our site. Each and every item sold is preloved from one of the UK’s leading influencers and bloggers. Instead of allowing their unused clothes to go to waste and end up in landfill, we help them find a home where they will be much loved and worn time and time again. 

Not only is preloved clothing more sustainable as it uses no materials to produce, it is also more affordable for customers. In this time of financial struggle, we are happy to be able to offer influencer-approved clothing at more affordable prices. 

Donating unsold clothes

Another way that we stay true to our values and beliefs is to donate unsold clothes and those that aren’t fit for sale to charity

Any clothes we receive that aren't fit for sale, or haven't sold after being on our site for three months, are donated to local charities to help those in need. One of our partner charities whom we have donated pieces to is Smart Works Reading. 

Smart Works donate clothes to women in order to provide work appropriate outfits, styling advice and interview coaching to help them succeed at interviews. This helps them to then move forward with their lives. 

Shop for preloved clothing from some of the UK’s favourite influencers and bloggers at Reliked.

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