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Greenwashing in vegan fashion: what is it and how to spot it?

Greenwashing in vegan fashion: what is it and how to spot it?
By Sarah King

Greenwashing happens when a company markets itself as “environmentally friendly” even though it is truly not, and with the rise of sustainability as a trend, more and more companies use this strategy to attract more consumers – sadly leading to unethical practices. Guest writer Sarah King – vegan fashion connoisseur – shares with you her tips and tricks to spotting greenwashing in the fashion industry!

With more people now trying to reduce their environmental footprint, switching to a vegan lifestyle has become one of the most popular ways to do so, especially since more documentaries and scientific reports have come out in support of reducing the animal agriculture industry. However, over recent years veganism has been used as a catch-all for sustainability, with the word ‘vegan’ added to a label to make consumers automatically think a product is sustainable and eco-friendly. 

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Veganism is more than just the food we eat. It’s the clothes we wear, the beauty products we use and even the furniture we put in our house, and with the rise in popularity of veganism, more brands are jumping on the green bandwagon and trying to sell us more products that align with our environmental ethics. We’ve now seen that vegan products are just as susceptible to greenwashing as any other product.

Guest writer Sarah King – vegan fashion connoisseur – shares with you her tips.

Greenwashing in vegan fashion: what is it and how to spot it?
Image via: Pinterest (left) and Maria Luneva

Greenwashing happens when a company markets itself as “environmentally friendly” even though it is truly not

It is a form of communication that deceptively promotes the perception that an organization’s products, aims, or policies are environmentally friendly.

Vague descriptions or terms like eco-friendly, ethically-made, or non-toxic are often used in marketing and packaging to give a product an illusion of being sustainable, without always being able to back up that claim.

Packaging plays a huge role in how consumers decide to buy, and brands know this

Greenwashing on vegan products that may not be that sustainable can include green or earth tones used as the packaging’s color, and images of leaves, the Earth, or bright, fresh ingredients are often included to give it that ‘sustainable’ look.

Greenwashing in vegan fashion: what is it and how to spot it?
Image via: @pijama.land (left) and Ana Mendieta (right)

Vegan fashion has seen a huge increase in popularity, and more fashion brands are catching on

We’ve seen companies rebrand existing items of clothing and footwear as vegan products, without changing a single component. They can do this with products made from synthetic materials like polyester and PVC (often used in faux leather), which are technically vegan but are still damaging to the environment. 

Vegan beauty is another industry going through a boom in popularity, with more brands seeing the potential in reaching more eco-minded consumers.

‘Vegan formula’ is often used, but can mean that the product has still been tested on animals

Again, vegan ingredients can still be unsustainable or toxic, such as palm oil and parabens. 

Veganism is not the be-all and end-all of sustainability. Vegan products are simply a way for you to know that no animal ingredients were used.

Greenwashing in vegan fashion: what is it and how to spot it?
Image via: Virón

People often look to veganism to be the ultimate form of sustainability, and in reality, it just is not

But it’s important to remember that if you’re going to criticize a vegan product for not being wholly sustainable, you also need to turn that attention to non-vegan products too or risk a hypocritical argument. 

Renoon Sustainable Fashion AppKnowing what to look for in products is basically what you need to practice. Ask yourself things like is this product organic, is the packaging recycled & recyclable, are they a b-corp, and checking Renoon for their sustainability commitments.

Thank you Sarah.

As Renoon we can add: sustainability and veganism merge together when there are other elements that make that brand care about these issues. So, if there is one big learning is: those vegan products are part of the solution, but not if used in a way to sell more, without the tiniest effort in making the sustainability journey something real.

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