Are brands’ sustainable claims helping the cause?
While being (more) sustainable is good for everyone, such claims from brands can actually set in motion a controversial mechanism. Let’s start by how to communicate sustainability, which is no easy thing.
The subject is delicate, multifaceted and, above all, mostly unexplored.
Over the past decade it went from being a discussion topic exclusively for hippies and nerds, to something fashionable and, ultimately, real.
The subject got so popular Companies soon realized, that without showing an environmental commitment they would lose a large market share. Consumers have become so demanding, that no brand can afford to miss the boat of becoming “eco-friendly”.
The way brands started communicating their environmental commitment has been very different though.
Truly sustainable claims should be specific, humble and transparent.
The journey towards becoming (more) sustainable is long and hard, for both companies and consumers. Being honest about the struggles and the path we are facing is most likely the key towards a transparent sustainable marketing.
This has not always been the case.
The fashion industry, which is legally less regulated than the food one for example, is in fact more likely to incur into greenwashing.
But leaving the greenwashing cases aside, there are several companies which are truly committed towards an innovative and sustainable production, exploring alternative fabrics and implementing new ways of doing business.
New items upcycled from scraps, fabrics created out of banana peels and fully compostable packaging.
The ocean case
To this regard, BOF has written about how cool ocean plastic has lately become.
Fishing nets and plastic bottles become sneakers from Sperry, bikinis from Reformation and coats from Burberry. Prada in the meantime, plans to substitute all its virgin nylon with recycled one through their Re-Nylon project.
And with 65% of consumers worried about the plastic in the ocean (but not all of them worried about climate change), this has become the symbol of the climate change battle.
Nevertheless, with plastic production expected to rise by 40% over the next decade, some argue this new trend is purely a distraction.
In fact, experts say even if half of the fashion’s industry production of nylon/polyester would be recycled from ocean plastic, it would still barely scratch the surface of the problem.
Still, we have to start somewhere, and drops of water make the ocean.
One step is better than no step.
The issue though might be, that these eco-friendly initiatives and their marketing are incentivizing customers to buy more.
So what if we are commodifying and commercializing the greatest crisis and biggest issue of our generation?
What if, even if with good intentions, we are ending up using such crisis only to fuel the very same business model we should be fighting?
BOF raises the question of whether ocean plastic can become anything more than a symbol. Or, is it destined to become just another buzzword that helps brands to sell, doing little for the environment?
Are these claims, even if true, really contributing into solving the current environmental emergency? Or are they just serving as a method to attract customer’s attention and sell more?
Problem is, these claims not only wash-off our sense of guilt, but most likely incentivize (and justify) our buying. In fact, we do feel that by getting such products we are somehow engaging in tackling the environmental issue.
Or is it just me?
Are brands, even if well-intended, finally unconsciously and paradoxically worsening the actual state of things? Are these eco-friendly initiatives pushing us towards becoming even more consumerists instead of fighting it?
Fashion is indeed more dangerous than other fields as we are talking about mostly superficial items with no pre-set limit in quantity.
For instance if you switch towards a plant-based diet, it’s very unlikely that this can have negative effects on the environment.
There is only so much one can eat and if those 3 meals a day are switched in favor of more sustainable ones, that’s good for everyone.
But what if those 3 clothes you used to buy, become 10?
Isn’t this inconsistent with the main concept that we should all consume less?