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5 Ways to Avoid Greenwashing and Be Honest About Your Sustainability Effort by RethinkRebels

By Partner


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Sustainability has become more and more significant in fashion. As consumers have an increased appetite for sustainability, false or misleading advertisements about products being greener have sprung up like mushrooms after rain. Consequently, greenwashing has become the hottest issue to tackle as sustainability statements are now seen as unreliable.

That’s why The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has drawn up guidelines for reliable sustainability claims targeting fashion brands and retailers.

Read on to use these guidelines to communicate honestly about your sustainability efforts and avoid greenwashing at all costs.

5 rules of thumb to make sure your sustainability claims are in check

Rule 1: Make it crystal clear what sustainability benefit your product has

- Make your claims clear and easy to understand.
- Be specific. Do not use jargon or misleading language.
- Don't give the impression that a product, its components or packaging are more sustainable than it really is.

For example:
- Use specific units of measurements.
- Mention 70% organic cotton in your care label instead of leaving customers thinking it’s entirely organic.

Rule 2: Back up your sustainability claims with facts and keep them up to date

- Prove that your sustainability claims are factual with evidence that can be verified. - Check regularly if your statements still hold up.

For example:
- Use the international standards by trusted organizations (e.g. ISO)
- Use a product footprint, life-cycle approach, or true price method (e.g. Organic Basics or Everlane).

Rule 3: Comparisons with other products or companies should be fair

- When comparing yourself with other brands or products, it shouldn't lead to any misunderstandings about the sustainability aspects of your label or products.
- Only compare apples with apples (e.g. jeans with jeans, not trainers).

Rule 4: Be honest and specific about your brand’s sustainability efforts

- Distinguish between general info about sustainability of your brand and specific info about the benefits of an individual product.
- Give concrete information about your initiatives and plans regarding sustainability instead of vague or unclear statements about your company's commitment and core values.
- Any statement about sustainability ambitions must be in proportion with your actual efforts.
- Only use claims about future goals if these are clear, concrete, and verifiable (e.g. in your strategy).

Rule 5: Make sure visual claims and labels are helpful rather than confusing or misleading

- Only use symbols, pictograms or labels that support your claim, and that don’t give a false impression about your product’s features (e.g. trees or color green).

Next step:

Now it’s time to check your brand and product communication with these helpful guidelines to avoid greenwashing while abiding by the rules set by ACM at all times. Good luck!

Rethink Rebels are leading experts on sustainability and circularity in the fashion industry. In September, they will be launching an exclusive Rethink Rebels Academy where they will share insider knowledge and valuable expertise to help you make a change in the fashion industry. Sign up here to get more information about the academy.

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