Black Friday is set to take place on November 27, despite the confinement, with its procession of promotions and compulsive shopping. (1). With the global health crisis, will this meeting be "essential"? Have we opened our eyes? According to some experts, yes! The urgent need to produce, distribute and consume differently has become obvious. But beware of greenwashing, which often proves to be a trap.
According to Nathalie Damerydirector of Obsoco, a consumer studies and society consultancy, " We can see the emergence of two France's: the France of those who continue to chase the lowest price, and the France of those who "resist", looking for new ways to consume. ".
In his book " Manifest mode "just released (2), Magali Moulinet-Govoroff explains: "The phenomenon of fast fashion, introduced in France in the 1990s by a number of foreign chains, has turned clothing codes upside down with weekly rushes of new, low-quality, low-price clothes designed to be short-lived [...]. Over the years, the players in this trend have become empires, the symbols of an ultraconsumerism that is both assertive and fraught with consequences."
However, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the issues that brands and consumers will have to face in the future, triggering a process of introspection: "the business model of the fast fashion now seems obsolete". Awareness is gaining ground, against a backdrop of ecological and economic urgency.
As Magali Moulinet-Govoroff explains, "In France, the health measure known as "confinement", which limited travel to what was strictly necessary and thus imposed the closure of shops and businesses "not essential to the life of the nation", was an opportunity for many to measure, in front of closets overflowing with imported clothes, the extent of their personal textile consumption. The sudden cessation of all shopping put the primary purpose of clothing back into perspective, and raised questions [...]."
Hence the public communication of the ecological argument of eco-responsibility, which has spread since 2006, with the aim of giving an image of ecological responsibility or sustainable development, ... far removed from reality. The practice of greenwashing is deceptive and can be likened to misleading advertising.
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For Nathalie Lebas-Vautier, founder of Good Fabric (3), it's time to set the record straight and warn of the dangers of greenwashing, which delays collective awareness and sustains doubt in consumers' minds. The damage is real and immense. But for her, there are signs of hope.
There is no doubt that fast-fashion and mass-market are going to have a field day once again, offering t-shirts for €3 and jeans for €15 on Black Friday 2020. At the same time, reassuring speeches about the supposed efforts of these brands to improve their manufacturing processes are multiplying, with the abuse of misleading expressions such as "responsible collection" "100% natural cotton", images and vocabulary of nature, the overuse of the color green: in short, all the tricks of greenwashing are at work.
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Greenwashing: insidious and devastating effects
Greenwashing can cover several realities and degrees of intensity. It ranges from outright concealment, such as the use of the color green to repaint a logo or packaging, like a fast-food chain that has switched from a red to a green background without fundamentally changing its practices, to the use of labels that have not been proven to be serious, but which create illusions among consumers, like the BCI label, which, unlike the GOTS label, does not address any environmental or social issues during the entire manufacturing process.
But other initiatives, sometimes laudable, also allow companies to distract themselves from the real issue: many brands highlight their donations to humanitarian associations or reforestation operations to ease their conscience and give themselves a good image, without questioning their practices or the products they sell. It's like putting a band-aid on a wooden leg!
The result of all this manipulation is that consumers are left in the dark, losing confidence not only in the brand practicing greenwashing, but in many other similar brands that find themselves thrown into the same basket. Discredit is contagious and devastating. Brands that try to move in the right direction pragmatically, without over-communicating, can also be struck by the poison of doubt. Greenwashing is therefore also harmful to companies that don't practice it.
But the most devastating effect is undoubtedly the delay in raising awareness and taking action that it induces: since everyone is taking up so-called sustainable development and ecology, the problem is on the way to being solved, so why mobilize? It's a falsely reassuring illusion that encourages inaction or cheating. But action is urgently needed! Particularly in the fashion sector, which is one of the most polluting in the world. It is no longer possible to design a textile product without considering its manufacture and its environmental and social impact.
The solution: a coherent, global approach that takes into account every stage of the value chain
A t-shirt may be made from organic cotton, but if it's made by children in deplorable working conditions, it's not a responsible purchase: if you want to adopt a CSR approach and improve your production processes, you must of course take an interest in the materials, their provenance, their quality and durability over time, but that's not enough. It's absolutely essential to take into account the human and social conditions under which products are manufactured, the quantities we choose to produce, the chemicals we use, the packaging we use and, last but not least, the mode of transport we select. So it's imperative to adopt a global, coherent approach that tackles every stage of the value chain, otherwise we'll tip over into greenwashing.
It's not an easy process (unlike greenwashing, which keeps us in a state of illusory comfort), you make a lot of mistakes along the way and, above all, it takes time: but it's the only way to get real results and make a difference. And you don't have to wait until you've "succeeded" to communicate: you don't have to be perfect to share your actions. On the contrary, consumers expect transparency and humility.
Over the past three years, Nathalie Lebas-Vautier has observed an acceleration in awareness and the desire to move forward. Consumers are more and more enlightened and less and less fooled, and brands have no choice but to evolve. But we need to speed things up. So what are we waiting for? " I appeal to the entire fashion and textile ecosystem. Let's turn the page on greenwashing, roll up our sleeves and take action today. "she declares.
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(1) To date, Black Friday is still scheduled. It is being debated at a time when many businesses are forced to remain closed.
(2) « Fashion manifesto - Dress differentlyby Magali Moulinet-Govoroff - Editions de La Martinière, October 2020.
(3) Good Fabric is an eco-designer, a manufacturer of ethical textile collections and accessories, and an advisor to companies in their CSR strategy and business model transformation. The company supports brands who want to give meaning to their work, and who wish to create beautiful products while respecting all those involved in the industry and limiting their environmental impact. Good Fabric's Eco-lab develops new sustainable yarns and offers its own interpretation of intelligent clothing. It is a partner of the Union of Sustainable Cashmere Cooperatives in Mongolia: the aim of this partnership is to promote this unique industry and sell certified sustainable cashmere to luxury and fashion houses in France. The Union is a group of cooperatives of nomadic breeders committed to the sustainable breeding of cashmere goats and yaks: it is the first sector of its kind to be certified (certification and implementation by the NGO AVSF).
Header photo : Vivienne Westwoodspring-summer 2017 show © Vogue