Greenwashing is rife in fashion. So we gathered up some tools to help you tell the difference between sustainable fashion and fast fashion in disguise.
We'll also be looking at campaigns and websites that help expose poor working conditions - people AND planet are important here.
10+ Useful Resources to Help you Spot Greenwashing in Fashion
What exactly is greenwashing in fashion - Vogue's Six Tips
Greenwashing is where brands suggest something is super green or eco-friendly, when in practice, it is the opposite.
Greenwash.com has a helpful definition of greenwashing as the "practice of falsifying or overstating the green credentials of a product, service or brand."
Vogue also has a great article on six things to look out for when it comes to greenwashing. This includes looking for the facts and figures or numbers that back up a claim to be eco-friendly.
But there is also some sound advice on finding those brands who stand for doing good for people and planet as a whole. Obviously you still need to vet them carefully, but the smaller businesses that revolve around sustainability and ethics are less likely to greenwash than the big brands trying to get their share of the sustainable market.
On the whole, the best advice is not to take green claims at face value.
Ethical Consumer Magazine
With over 40,000 ratings of brands, from fashion to food and drink, Ethical Consumer has been a trusted source for all things sustainable and ethical since 1989. There is both a handy website and an informative bi-monthly magazine which are great to have as reference guides when you're looking to buy something new (or new-to-you).
Each brand gets an Ethiscore out of 20, which is based on a number of factors including environment, people, animals and politics. There are also 'Best Buys' which Ethical Consumer recommends.
So this is a handy resource for learning more about the fashion brands you're buying from.
Good On You
Good On You is also great for researching more about brands. They claim to use 500+ data points across 100 key issues in order to generate a score for each brand.
So we thought we'd look up the biggest player in fast fashion, Shein. They are rated "we avoid", which is the lowest rating out of the five possible ratings.
A price indicator is also given, which for Shein is just one $.
Goodonyou gives an overall headline about how Shein is "not taking adequate steps to manage its greenhouse gas emissions", before going into a succint summary on how they arrived at such a score.
Both a sustainable fashion blog and a directory, Sustainably Chic is a helpful website for taking the next step in your sustainable journey.
Whether you need an easy guide to what exactly sustainable fashion is and looks like, or if you're seeking out those brands who are making the fashion industry a cleaner, fairer place, then it's certainly a good resource.
The sustainable brand directory has lots of handy categories for the kinds of things you might be searching for; from broader categories of womenswear and menswear to underwear & loungewear.
Who Made My Fabric?
Have you ever wondered who actually made your clothes? When you walk into a second hand shop or even a high street fashion store, you're bombarded with a whole array of clothes. So much goes into their production, from growing the materials, conditioning them, dyeing them and then of course stitching them together.
And all the credit that the workers and farmers get is a label that says "Made in India".
As an aside, we recently processed some old stock that did actually put exactly where the cotton was grown on the label. It's good to know where your clothes were made, and under what conditions.
Anyway! A fantastic campaign by Fashion Revolution points out that:
"While a growing number of brands and retailers have published a list of the factories where their garments are cut and sewn, the vast majority of brands are not yet disclosing the facilities where fabrics and yarns are made."
By visiting Fashion Revolution's campaign page for "Who Made My Fabric" you can find resources and the means to take action to find out where your fabrics are made and under what conditions.
If only you could do your laundry digitally! Greenwash.com is an immersive website experience that exposes greenwashing claims made by your favourite highstreet and fast fashion brands.
As you enter the website you're taken through the doors of a laundry. From there you can select how you wish to take part in the experience. We just selected 'Quick Spin' which gives you a random greenwashing case. In our case, it was a greenwashing claim made by Primark.
The website scrutinises an advert which says that Primark will make their clothes recyclable by design by 2027.
Greenwash.com said: "....regardless of how many items will be ‘recyclable by design’ by 2027, they have not addressed the elephant in the room – which is the scale of their production and promotion of fast fashion."
They go on to talk about how Primark also uses a great deal of polyester based materials which are not infinitely recyclable currently.
Fashion Footprint Tool
If you're looking to compare greenwashing claims about a particular garment, it might be handy to know the general impact of each material in fashion garments.
Farfetch have a helpful 'Fashion Footprint Tool' which takes you through each material linen to leather on the carbon emissions and the amount of water it takes to produce each kind of garment. They also compare recycled materials vs standard materials - e.g recycled polyester vs normal polyester.
The language of greenwash
Big red flags for greenwashing? The jargon that brands use. These words often sound good, even green, on paper. But in reality they're all too vague.
We liked greenwash.earth's guide which helps you identify that loose language.
On the flip-side it also helps to recognise what key words or phrases to look for when looking for ethical and sustainable alternatives to fast fashion. This glossary by remake.world is clear and uses some of the most common words and phrases you need to know. Again these can be co-opted by companies to mislead you (greenwashing) so it is always worth trying to verify their claims.
How to do your own Greenwashing Research
Most of the tools we've listed so far have been brilliant websites powered by talented teams of researchers who put in the hours to find truly sustainable fashion brands and expose those that are greenwashing.
But you can start to do a bit of your own research.
If you're based in the UK, Companies House can be helpful in finding out who owns and runs a business. It quickly comes apparent who the main directors are, and what other businesses they might be linked to, or own.
Of course the other thing you can do is to directly contact a brand and ask them to back up a green claim they've made.
Other Helpful Greenwashing Databases and Resources
Ecolabelindex.com is really helpful for looking up those eco labels that you don't recognise.
Betterworldshopper.org is a public research project which helps to make social/environmental data available to consumers. US based. They have a helpful list of sustainable and less sustainable companies.