How To Know If A Brand is Truly Sustainable
We’ve all heard the saying “All the glitters isn’t gold”. And it might sound cliché, but unfortunately, it stands true; especially when it comes to sustainable fashion and sustainability as a whole. I mean, there is a reason why the word “greenwashing” is so trendy at the moment: some brands are using sustainability as a means to make a few extra bucks, which makes it difficult to tell if a brand is truly sustainable.
Let me share something with you: I used to work as a marketing manager for a lifestyle brand that couldn’t care less about sustainability. But when the founder realised a few of the products happened to have sustainable properties, it became mandatory to make the copy according to this “new trend”. All of a sudden, it was all about upcycling, eco-friendly features and sustainable lifestyle. Needless to say, it made me extremely suspicious, as a consumer, and I started to pay close attention to the brands that claim sustainability as their new battlefield. So how to know if a brand is truly sustainable? Here are 7 ways to make up your mind.
What Are Their Sustainability Claims?
This is what I do as soon as I land on a new brand’s website if they claim “sustainable” values. It might seem obvious, but their “About” page or “Our Story” page (or whatever they call it) should clearly state what they believe in. Sustainability isn’t a word to be thrown out there. And my belief is this: if it truly is a core value of yours, then your story should reflect that.
If you simply have one “sustainable” range of products, right when it becomes trendy, but you’re not explaining the reasoning behind it, I’m sceptical… Am I a bit extreme? Maybe, but I’ve had enough marketing experience to be wary of brands doing a one-off campaign on a specific topic, and then… nothing.
Follow (or Stalk) Their Social Media Platforms
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Checking how brands present themselves on social platforms and how they
This one can be done very quickly, but it’s super useful. Checking the brand’s social media platforms helps to see if their messaging is consistent. And it also helps to check out their history. Even though sustainability is a process, massive U-turns are usually quite rare, so check what messaging was like about 6 months ago, before that brand-sparkling-new “green-range”.
Check out their Pricing Strategy
Ok, so this can be a tad bit simplistic, but often, quality means “quality” price. All business need to make a profit to survive, so if a brand is selling something very cheap, and still manages to have a profit margin from these prices, it can be a red flag.
It’s always good to refresh our minds and remember things like the CPW (cost per wear), and how to calculate the real cost of clothes when it comes to fast fashion vs fairtrade fashion.
Is Their Marketing Strategy Responsible?
The primary key idea of fast fashion is that it’s “fast” and it promotes overconsumption. Some sustainable brands fall into the same marketing habits and need to be reminded of that. If a brand is promoting overconsumption and has new arrivals every couple of days, these are massive red flags. I wouldn’t say this brand is truly sustainable. Now is it an all-or-nothing argument? Of course, not! But we need to, once again check the overall message, and check. Is it legit, or does it looks a little bit too much like greenwashing?
Hint: if it looks like greenwashing, it smells like greenwashing, and it sounds like greenwashing, then it probably is! Haha!
Check Out The Specifics
Sustainability is so overwhelming sometimes, and being an umbrella term, it can be easy to throw it out there without actually knowing what’s being said. The thing is: brands know that! So while checking the sustainability claims, ask yourself “ok, but what do they mean exactly? Are they zero-waste? Are they fairtrade? Are their products all organic?”.
Because let’s face it: it’s impossible to be 100% sustainable and have zero impact whatsoever. So we need to make sure that the focus is clear. Sustainable, ok, but how?
What is Their Stance During Big Sales Season
Aha! This one is tricky, and it also needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Buuuuuut, sustainable brands that engage with Black Friday and other “marketing big days” should be checked as well. We all like to buy things a bit cheaper than their regular price, but as consumers, we need to be careful about the things we’re supporting. And we need to hold brands accountable too.
So is that brand using the same marketing tactics as non-ethical brands? Or are they using that day to raise awareness? Remember, sustainability is the art of balancing the People, the Planet and the Profit. So if Profit is the only consideration, then… We’ll pass.
Check The Labels
Last but not least, read the labels. Does the garment require dry cleaning? Is it made of eco-friendly materials? Where was it made? All this means something, and we need to be able to identify the red flags.
If you want to read more about sustainable fabrics, then check out the FABRICS 101 – A comprehensive guide to UNDERSTANDING FABRICS and making SUSTAINABLE CHOICES.
Now when it comes to the location, it matters for many reasons, traceability being one of them, and carbon foot-print being another one. But also, supporting the local economy is always a good idea.
Do you have any other tips to spot greenwashing? How do you know if a brand is truly sustainable? Let me know in the comments.