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Expert view: Will ‘greenwashing’ work out to be good for textiles?

By Charles Ross, RCA lecturer, Do Lectures team member, and Performance Days presenter

One of the things that makes textile professionals eyes’ roll is the mention of greenwashing – but are we jumping to a poor conclusion? Normally stapled on the back of a comment about ‘Fast Fashion’, it is the way that the clothing industry is made to look evil as one of the major world polluters.

Ignored is the chance that both textiles and agriculture offer to developing nations for them to trade up in status; a short memory as at the end of the 1980s so much production moved to the Pacific Rim (although the recent behaviour by some during the covid-19 outbreak has shown a colonialist attitude).

It brought poor practise, pollution, and the such like, but the business has been the tipping point for China to progress to a minimum wage and better conditions. Fast Fashion has become the socially acceptable form to the ever-pushed Prozac nation. As hedonism is now regarded as something that clothing offers (beyond the traditional utilitarian, biogenic, and psychogenic attributes), the price points have made it an easy purchase to lift spirits (and cheaper than the round of drinks you buy on a night out). Over the same period wardrobes have tripled in contents.

The 2019 House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion report concluded that anything can be greenwashed, but help is a lot closer than realised. Technology has empowered Gen Z to cross-check information and if discrepancies are identified between the brand claim and actual practice, social media offers the speed to break a brand’s reputation. The virtual world has enabled direct messaging between the consumer and those along the supply chain. Any marque that ignores this power is being careless with the brand guardianship with which they are entrusted.

Greater provenance is demanded by the woke generation as they want to know more; the exposure of poor practice and misinformation has led to demands higher than audited by industry norms like The Responsible Wool Standard: H Dawson’s Woolkeepers programme offers traceability of product right back to the farm, so those farmers that use regenerative agricultural practice can be identified. PrimaLoft’s Bio additive allows for synthetic fibres to compost and decompose, but the closest standard (ASTMs 5511 + 6691) does not provide relevant measurement. Finisterre are now addressing the bane of the protective wrappings with their project with Aquapak for water soluble plastic. Textiles does better than is acknowledged!

For more information about the topics raised in this article, please contact Charles Ross on charles@email.com

This expert view is part of BMI’s spolight week on bio-based textiles. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Bio Market Insights’ editorial team and management.


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