FAST FASHION, GREENWASHING AND WOKE-WASHING
As we approach 2022, the world's population is becoming increasingly aware and concerned about climate change and social inequalities. Thanks to the access to the information we now have, people are doing more research and are becoming more aware of the origin of the products they buy and are not hesitating to express their thoughts.
But how can ethically bad companies continue to sell products to an aware population?
In recent years, new marketing and PR strategies have emerged in many companies: greenwashing and woke washing.
Do they lead to success? Surely. Are they ethical? Absolutely not.
Greenwashing can be described as creating a false impression or giving incorrect information about how a company's products are more environmentally-friendly.
An example: the Korean cosmetics brand Innisfree added a green label to the packaging of a product stating "I'm Paper Bottle". However, it was only the label of the bottle that was made of paper, and when the paper was removed, it was a regular plastic bottle.
Companies do woke-washing when they use social movements to boost sales instead of addressing how their firm is complicit with ethical issues.
An example: Kendall Jenner's ad for Pepsi shows protest movements without addressing the issue of police brutality in the US and referring to Black Lives Matter. In the ad, Kendall Jenner, a white woman, offers a can of Pepsi to a police officer in order to continue protesting.
I am sure we've all heard about the social and environmental damages of fast fashion: water pollution, lack of labour rights, massive waste... And what may seem ironic is that the marketing and PR teams of fast fashion brands know that we are aware of the dark side of this industry, but still decide to include woke washing and greenwashing in their communication strategies.
I would like to compare it to an elephant that wants to hide behind a horse lol
I found some very interesting examples:
H&Ms has a recycling programme where you can earn 15% off your next purchase if you bring in a bag of old clothes.
According to Elizabeth Cline, only a small percentage of these clothes (about 1%) can be really recycled. Firstly, most clothing textiles are composed of a range of fibres that are difficult to separate once mixed together. Then, there are other fibres that are difficult to recycle, such as cotton and wool: their quality degrades dramatically after recycling. Furthermore, the 15% off coupon for the next purchase encourages people to buy more non-sustainable clothes, creating a vicious cycle.
Moreover, H&M produced a 'Conscious Collection' in 2019, which was promoted as a line created from sustainable materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyester. However, The Big Issue reported that this line had a larger share of harmful synthetic elements (72%) than its main line1%).
Many fast fashion brands like Boohoo promote International Women's Day, but do nothing for all the women they exploit in their sweatshops, with wages too low to live on and unsafe and non-compliant working conditions.
Again for Boohoo, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the brand was selling t-shirts with social distancing logos. However, the same firm did not respect quarantine rules and organised photoshoots, and forced workers to work even if they were ill while paying them only £3.50 per hour.
Boohoo and H&M are just two examples of greenwashing and woke washing in the fast fashion industry. However, we can find many other brands that do it too.
Greenwashing and woke washing are very bad because these strategies trick uninformed consumers who want to be more socially and environmentally conscious, like me for example.