A simple guide to greenwashing

Is it Green or has it been washed?

Greenwashing – the act of spending more time telling people how environmentally friendly you are than actually changing your business methods to become more environmentally friendly. I think we all can pull half a dozen obvious examples of greenwashing out of the hat.   McDonalds introducing paper only straws – that turned out to be non-recyclable.   Or Innocent Drinks (owned by Coca Cola – one of the largest plastic polluters in the world) producing twee cartoons asking everyone to recycle to save the planet (the ASA ordered them to pull the adverts). But sometimes the washing is harder to spot if you don’t have access to the behind the scenes data.

One of the most high profile greenwashing cases was when H&M was taken to court (twice) for false representation with regards to their claims about recycling and carbon footprint.  They won their case,  but they withdrew the scorecards on their clothing and the premium price for the “extra green” clothes.

A simple guide to greenwashing

So how can we know what is genuine and what is not.  Sadly the onus is on us.    The Sustainable Agency produced the poster above which is a starting point.  The key is perhaps the word in the box on the bottom right. Misdirection.

Also there are a myriad of factors you may wish to consider.  Just because a company is genuinely trying to be environmentally friendly does it treat its workers fairly, where does it invest?  

I find Ethical Consumer an excellent place to start.  It doesn’t answer all the questions but it points me in the right direction and over the decades has introduced me to brands I never knew existed

You can set your priorities from a range of options and check out how your usual brands scrub up.  Some categories are only available to consumers, however I believe many local authorities do subscribe and you can look up their reports at libraries.   (Do let me know if this is no longer the case, it certainly used to be in Durham).


So what are some of the fashion brands they recommend?  Well if it’s High Street shops you are after it’s not good news.  There was not a single “Best Buy” on the High Street.  The highest score 11/20 went, not surprisingly to Patagonia.   Of the more everyday clothing brands at 7-6.5 were Quiz, Uniqlo, ASOS, Miss Selfridge, Topman, TopShop and White Stuff.  Down at the very bottom with 4.5-0.5 were, in order Next, Gap, Misguided, M&S, BooHoo, Burton, Coast, Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, Karen Millen,  Maine New England, Miss Pap, Nasty Gal, Oasis, Pretty Little Thing, Shein, Wallis, Warehouse, TK Maxx, Primark and with a whopping big 0 Amazon Clothing.

Ethical Consumer’s recommendations?

Ethical Consumer recommended fashion companies

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