As concerns grow regarding the fast fashion industry because of its implications on the environment, we look for alternatives to stay fashionable and green. Shopping and online shopping can become tricky as companies “greenwash” and mislead their customers through marketing strategies to convince the public that they are sustainable when they are not. Since the green movement is relatively new, there is no concrete definition or formalized requirements that determine how sustainable a company is. The concept of sustainability is up for interpretation by the individual, so when determining which companies are ideal for you, you must identify which aspects of sustainability you are targeting. Two main branches can be identified: first, the maintenance of ethical practices that include human and animal rights;  and secondly,  the conservation of the environment such as lowering carbon emissions and conserving water. After choosing which goals you want to focus on, you must prepare yourself to do a little research and look at past marketing strategies.

A good start will always be to research a company’s history: what is the objective of its creation and who owns or envisions it. Companies that are passionate about sustainability and will most likely have a business model that reflects those objectives, will not hide any information. For example Veja, a French brand famous for being environmentally friendly, delivers a very detailed checklist that describes their non-toxic materials, recycled packaging, water-conserving, and ethical treatment of animals. Their information is backed up with statistics by professionals that analyze the negative externalities to the exact number, leaving nothing to remain hidden. Although Veja has become a very popular brand and a synonym for sustainable shoes, its business model can be used to spot smaller companies that share the same initiative. Companies that have a deep connection with sustainability by being personal and having a story to tell are more likely to be reliable and they will do the most to ensure that they stand out from those companies with broken promises.

Another thing to look out for are vague sustainable ideas on marketing strategies. Many companies use buzzwords such as “eco-friendly” or “green” to make their practices seem legitimate in the eyes of the public, even if they lack any scientific qualification. The best thing to do is to look for certifications such as the Fair Trade certification. Fair Trade works towards achieving the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) and guarantees that companies have safe working conditions, environmental protection, sustainable livelihoods, and community development funds. If these are the qualities you are looking for in a company, Fair Trade’s qualifications guarantee these standards are being respected. If you are uncertain about how reliable a certification is, remember to look at what other organizations endorse or support them. Remember that there are also apps – such as Good On You – that rate a company’s sustainability and research for you in case you’re looking for another opinion to compare to your own. 

Another common practice companies have started pursuing is Carbon offsets, which consists in companies reaching carbon neutrality without having them directly change their means of production. They achieve such results investing in projects that in theory cancel or remove the exact carbon dioxide that companies have emitted. For example, Gucci says they have committed to being carbon neutral by investing in reforestation. Planting trees will release oxygen into the atmosphere to combat their pollution. Although carbon offsets can theoretically aid in the short run, they can become a distraction for customers and result in companies not directly cutting their emissions or adapting to become sustainable. This is the risk you take when a company claims to be carbon neutral, and if carbon offsets do not fit your definition of sustainable, you might want to consider shopping elsewhere. 

Shopping can become overwhelming because, ideally, we want to target all aspects of sustainability. However, it is essential to remember that the world is too interconnected and that our current market system has not yet adapted to these new challenges. Sustainable shopping is about doing our best at the individual level to reduce the negative externalities of the fashion industry. Such initiative allows us to become aware of the impact of our consumer mindset. By supporting sustainable businesses, we aid in promoting a cultural change that will oblige our system to change. 

I hope these tips were helpful, if you have more share them with us via @ieustork and stay tuned for other articles very soon!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here