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Google searches for “sustainable fashion” have quadrupled in the last 5 years. Because of this, high street retailers are now vying for space in the sustainable sphere.

Search for “sustainable fashion” online and you’ll be hit with targeted ads from high-street brands new "green" collections. These collections include names such as C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" (DW) 

H&M's 'CONSCIOUS' label contains "at least 50 percent sustainable materials, such as organic cotton and recycled polyester." (H&M) However, it is not clear to consumers what percentage of organic cotton is used in the items labeled.

Whilst they are making positive changes towards more ethical practices, there is a lot that these high street brands are still not telling you.

Greenwashing is when a company claims they have ethical practices and use it as a marketing tool, when in fact the opposite is true. Many brands use buzzwords to entice consumers; eco-friendly, organic, sustainable and ethically sourced. It sounds sincere, but for many brands, it’s just a tick box exercise to gain greener credentials.

What they fail to mention is that 93% of fast fashion brands don’t pay their garment workers a liveable wage. (Fashion Checker) Or that the equivalent of a garbage truck filled with clothing gets dumped or burned, every second. 

Fast fashion brands produce about 52 “micro-seasons” a year. This means at least one new “collection” every week. (The Good Trade) These collections include the latest fashion trends and quickly out-date your current wardrobe, in order to encourage more consumerism, and therefore a throwaway culture.

It’s time to slow fashion down, and demand more evidence behind high street brands' ‘sustainable’ collections. We also need to support brands who implement effective and transparent sustainability practices, and put pressure on high street brands to stop greenwashing and strive for higher ethical practices and transparency.

You can cast a vote with your purchasing power. 

Ways to avoid Greenwashing:

1. Have they done it or are they going to?

Often stores will talk about what they want to do, as opposed to what they have done. This is always a great indication of how truthful the claim is. 

2. Use Third Party Platforms

Use websites such as Good On You a brand rating provider, bridging the gap between sustainable fashion and responsible buying, they offer robust ratings based on brands’ ethical behaviours to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions. 

3. Choose brands who monitor their supply chain.

It’s important to have visibility down to the raw materials stage. Google has recently partnered with WWF Sweden to build a traceability platform to make supply chain information more accessible. Providing you with masses of information on the supply chain of different brands to enable you to make an informed decision on who to buy from and who to avoid.

4. Check for certifications.

A brand may describe their products as  ‘vegan-friendly’ or ‘100% natural materials’ but make sure this is certifiable from a credible source. Examples of robust certifications include: Fair Trade, Soil Association, Better Cotton Initiative and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).

5. Set a benchmark for transparency.

Once you’ve found a sustainable fashion brand you love, use their green credentials as a benchmark to compare against others. The truly eco-friendly companies will be more than willing to share key information with their consumers.

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Emma Gray

Writer’s Bio: Manchester-based Marketing Manager and Sustainability Blogger

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