What’s hiding beneath environmental labelling and advertising.
Global warming and ecosystemic destruction pose a huge challenge to our attempts to preserve the Earth and life as we know it. Awareness of the ecological emergency is pushing fashion designers and brands to develop more responsible, innovative and efficient products. But sometimes they get too enthusiastic about it, and start throwing around superlatives all over the place!
Good faith arguments or greenwashing strategies by seasoned marketers? Let's put things into perspective.
➡️ Cleaning the oceans 🏊
Eco-design initiatives offer solutions to recylce plastic waste collected from the oceans, known as ocean plastic.
Here’s some information that the tagline doesn’t include:
• Not all ocean plastics can be recycled, especially because of their stay in salted water. Among those in good condition, only large enough pieces of PET (e.g. from a plastic bottle) and nylon (e.g. from a fishing net) can be retransformed into fiber.
• A lot of this recycled waste is collected on the beach and in rivers, this is, before they reach the oceans.
• Unfortunately the cleaning is very limited, as the recovered plastic represents only a tiny part of the pollution of the oceans.
• Manufacturers often fail to mention the presence of other materials which don’t save the oceans, which sometimes make most of final product’s composition.
✔️ Beyond words:
Through its foundation and its "Upcycling the Oceans" program, the Spanish textile brand ECOALF is particularly involved in the collection and processing of this kind of waste. With the help of 440 trawlers, 700 tonnes of debris have been collected from the Mediterranean seabed. More info here ⇒
➡️ Handcrafted ✋
This mention is often misleading, as all shoes are made by hands. But only those assembled by an artisan shoemaker can claim to be truly handcrafted. In a factory, expert hands are helped by a lot of machines. These don’t run on manual energy, but on fossil fuels. And it is the factories’ energy consumption that is responsible for the largest share of pollution in the fashion industry.
✔️ Giving visibility to the actual manufacturers is essential for a fairer and cleaner fashion. Choose products made in workshops close to us to guarantee good working conditions, and prefer those that safeguard and perpetuate artisanal know-hows.
➡️ Environmentally responsible / green 🍀
For some brands, eco-friendly fashion is above all a business opportunity. To claim to be "sustainable", the giants of fast fashion do the bare minimum: a piece of organic cotton or some part made of recycled material is enough for them, all without committing to a more ethical production.
This “greenwashing” strategy is doubly bad for the environment. On one hand, it’s clearly intended to encourage sales by promising some sort of ecological benefit, unnecessarily consuming natural resources and humans. On the other hand, it competes with companies whose production is truly ethical and eco-responsible. At the moment, there is no standard for what constitutes an ethical, sustainable, or eco-responsible product." It’s therefore up to the consumer to sort it out, which is impossible without imposing transparency on brands.
✔️ It is on the level of policy making that we must act here, by calling for example for ecological bonuses / penalties, or by imposing ecological labels with a rating (A/B/C/D…) as in agroindustry.
These are some of the superpowers that certain products claim for themselves. They are strategies to reassure our eco-anxiety and encourage us to consume. In a future newsletter, we will decipher what the concepts of recyclable, biodegradable, and carbon neutrality cover.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a neutral product. And that our real margin of action for the environment is to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of our purchases.
So, if you want to know more about the products you might buy, you will find all about the composition and origin of our shoes, in order to help you choose better. You know where to find us!
📖 To go further:
“The Effect of Recycling versus Trashing on Consumption: Theory and Experimental Evidence”, Journal of Marketing Research