During the last 25 years, the textile and clothing industry has expanded at an increasing rate and volume into low-cost Asian and Far Eastern countries.

95% of all garments sold in Finland are imported

In Finland, for example, the watershed year was 1987, when textile and clothing export figures exceeded import rates for the first time; the following year, these figures reversed. Today, it is estimated that approximately 95%of all garments sold in Finland are imported; this figure is broadly shared by all Western countries (mostly between 90- 95 % ). And production has not only moved into long logistic chains, but it has also grown and continues to grow. Between 2002 and 2010, the global textile industry grew by 25%, according to estimates.

Textile and clothing consumption is estimated to account for about 5% of household environmental impact and carbon emissions. Even if that figure is low, textile and clothing consumption is increasing, and the recent shortening of the life spans of particularly fast fashion items adds to the industry’s environmental burden: all those resources are wasted if the garments are worn for a very short time or even not at all. Furthermore, textile waste is becoming a growing problem in all Western countries, and the chemical burden of textile manufacturing is a major issue in Asian countries.

The phenomenon of Greenwashing

Because Western consumers’ environmental awareness is growing, businesses may be tempted to use sustainable and environmental arguments to boost sales. Furthermore, because environmental and sustainability issues are complex, consumers are easily misled.

Companies can use sustainability as a “marketing ploy” – a practice known as greenwashing.

How do I spot it?

Greenwashing can take many forms. Here are a few warning signs to keep an eye out for:

– If a brand releases ‘conscious collections’ but does not use facts or figures to back up its claims.

– Greenwashing occurs when a company produces only a small portion of its product line sustainably while marketing itself as environmentally conscious. If your company is still profiting from largely unsustainable manufactured goods, then one surely cancels out the other.

– When a label makes broad marketing claims for commercial gain, such as ‘shop and save the planet’ or ‘look cute and protect the environment.’ These are massive exaggerations that are highly misleading.

– If a company exaggerates its ethical or environmental efforts. For example, they could create collections out of recycled polyester while not prioritizing living wages for garment workers.

To avoid greenwashing, a narrow focus on environmental issues should be avoided in favour of a more holistic understanding. For example, if a fast-fashion company uses eco-labels on some of its products or one product line, it does not truly change the fashion system or the economic logic underlying it; the company’s environmental load remains enormous because it produces too much stuff in extremely short cycles. A fast-fashion company, for example, uses paper bags instead of plastic ones. This minor detail has no bearing on the business logic. The company’s values must be deeply rooted in sustainability, and its principles must be included and implemented at all levels and functions.

Another factor to consider is that all information about the product’s environmental benefits must be proven. Eco-labels are far superior to the company’s own environmental statements in this regard. Eco-labels (certificates) are based on the tests and evaluation criteria of an independent organization and are thus more objective and reliable than the company’s own information.

All irrelevant or perplexing information should be avoided as well.