Why We Need An Industry-Wide Sustainability Definition

by: Rosie Dalton | 2 years ago | Features

Image via Pansy. Image source.  

As sustainability becomes increasingly visible in the contemporary fashion landscape, we’re seeing more brands bestowing themselves with this label. Which can be problematic because, in the absence of traceable systems, accreditations or certifications, there is sometimes very little to back up these claims. Of course, greenwashing is nothing new, but the problem is that this phenomenon is particularly insidious in fashion.

According to Investopedia, "greenwashing is conveying a false impression that a company or its products are more environmentally sound than they really are." In fashion, this means brands claiming to be 'sustainable' without the evidence to match. And the latest trend in fashion greenwashing is to simply tack a 'sustainable' line onto a fast fashion supply chain. Which is inherently hypocritical, because fast fashion can never really be sustainable. 

It is for this reason that we need to introduce an industry-wide definition for sustainability. Because this is the only thing that would help to combat the vague terminology that fast fashion brands often use in order to trick consumers into thinking they are more sustainable than they really are.

The problem is, of course, that sustainability is an incredibly broad term – and, ultimately, an inherently holistic one. However, if we don’t find a standardised solution to stop greenwashing, then fast fashion brands will keep perpetuating a disposable fashion culture.

At WMC, we define sustainability as making at least 80% of products using sustainable materials and processes. This means organic textiles and hemp, for example, or using low impact dyes and upholding climate neutrality.

Most fast fashion brands, however, don’t define what sustainability means to them. Which is why we need to implement an industry-wide definition. Because, as the director of the health program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Linda Greer puts it: there is fundamentally “a disconnect between the idea that you are selling a tremendous amount of clothing in fast fashion and that you are trying to be a sustainable company.”


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