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Greenwashing: investigating the concept

Greenwashing: investigating the concept


The fashion industry has been a friend to many but equally an enemy to some. In terms of environmental responsibility, the most conscious thing to do would be to not buy clothes at all. However, in today’s society, the mystification of newness and expression through consumerism plays a vital role in our existence. Our reality turns out to be a bit more complicated.

Over the past decades, the sustainability movement has slowly entered the fashion industry. There has been a more conscious shift in production, but especially in the ways marketing strategies have developed in a ‘greener’ jacket. Marketing tools have a variety of purposes with both good and bad sides. The good side is the creation of awareness about real sustainable initiatives and establishing fashion for the future, a message that Can Pep Rey wishes to promote. However, the bad side involves unjustifiable claims regarding responsible initiatives in climate insecure times and using marketing as a cover-up for mainstream practices of exploitative production. This is the downside of the sustainability of fashion, a phenomenon referring to the term “greenwashing”. But how to find a meaning?

Greenwashing was introduced in the 1960s, it originated from the hotel industry, where it became a more prominent concept. Hotels would place cards on guest beds, asking them to reuse their towels and bedsheets, to consider environmental purposes. The underlying interest resulted in the lowering of laundry costs. It is true that reusing in its essence is more environmentally-friendly. However, the intention regarding the benefits may have had more of a monetary value rather than sustainable purpose.

Linking it to fashion, for example eco-collections could be produced in sustainable ways. However, it depends what this collection is a part of. If the eco-collection is only a small segment of the overall production, the myth of sustainability continues in the remaining business models of, especially, fast fashion brands. It seems to be a temporary green glow, but we know that overtime it wears off.

The effects of false green advertisement divert attention away from real initiatives which are being realized by actual sustainable brands. In addition, greenwashing does not address any of the prime core controversies within the fast fashion industry in terms of environmental and labour issues

How can we resist Greenwashing?

One: inform yourself. Education and creating an awareness are the start of everything. Research the origin of fabrics, the practices used in production processes, read articles, look into sustainability reports and talk to people. Whenever you enter a store, ask where the collection comes from, how it is produced and be willing to explore.

Two: hold brands accountable. Recognise ambiguous claims such as “we are serious about the well-being of our people and planet.” Question a brand by looking at their website, their labels, their certifications and in practice sustainability efforts. Is there supply chain information transparent? How much information do they disclose to the consumer?

Three: take action. Again, the most responsible form of action would be to not buy clothes at all. However, in a fast-paced society where comfort, identity and consumerism are fairly present, it is hard to realise such a measure. The second most conscious thing to do then would be to buy environmentally and socially responsible produced clothes or buy vintage. In addition, invest is staples that are time-less and long-lasting, a philosophy that Can pep Rey lives by. In other words, boycott the brands that thrive of green marketing and still actively exploit natural and human resources along the way.

Greenwashing has unfortunately become a mechanism of promotion. In other words, this is the downside of a positive development. However, as a consumer it is important to recognize your power and influence regarding the way you wish to engage within the fashion industry. To end with a small quote: “lead the scene and keep it green” as it all starts with you.

Words by: Iris Seltenrijch, Sustainability Intern at Can Pep Rey 



In the theme of Green Friday, Can Pep Rey wishes to share with you some easy access to education about the global fashion industry. We have prepared a list of podcasts to get engaged and to learn about the role of fashion in a climate-turbulent world. We hope you enjoy it! 

Wardrobe Crisis 

The podcast unpacks the interrelation between climate change and the fashion industry. A great way to get familiar with a large selection of topics. Source:

Fashion Revolution Podcast

The activist non-profit organisation Fashion Revolution explains in a short podcast series the conditions of garment workers. This project brings the working conditions to light as well as ideas for change. Source:

Sustainability Influenced 

This podcast, hosted by two women of colour, sheds a light on the understanding of the problems within the field of sustainable fashion and conscious living. Source:

Business of Fashion Podcast 

The Business of Fashion is a large fashion news platform which provides insights from the entrepreneurial side of fashion including perspectives of creative directors, business leaders and experts. Source:

It’s Possible Podcast by United Nations Climate Change 

With the COP27 in full-swing, this podcast of the United Nations aims to inspire positive change, unpack the climate emergency and connect science to action. Recommended for sparking some hope for the future! Source:



Finally we have some Green Friday Tips for you to become a more responsible consumer during this week and for the future. 

What to buy?

The best thing would be to not buy anything during this time. However, if you have an opportunity to invest in something long lasting, you can always decide to buy more consciously. Try to support locally owned businesses, environmentally-friendly brands or second-hand. 

Make a list 

Take a look at your closet before you make a purchase. Reconsider the items you own and think about what you wish to add. Look at staple pieces that can last you a lifetime! By making a list, you avoid spontaneous purchases and can add more versatile items. 

Quality over quantity

It is very tempting to buy a lot of items with massive discounts, but is it the most responsible? It might be better to invest in one quality item. Try to rethink your purchasing choices. 

Try to learn and spread the message

Education is one of the most important things out there. Knowledge is power and therefore we encourage you to inform yourself about the fashion industry, its environmental and social impacts and the possibilities for the future. Talk to one another or delve into a documentary or podcast! 



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