New regulations incoming for the Fashion industry: An end to Greenwashing or are we at risk of a “Green-Out”?

I welcome the slew of regulations and standards being currently debated, proposed and (eventually) imposed on our industry. From the US FABRIC Act focus on garment workers rights for, to the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence DirectiveEPR guidance, California PFAS ban and the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, to various action on greenwashing from the UK’s Green Claims Code, to Norway’s Transparency Act – radically redefining fashion’s reporting on full lifecycle impact. It feels like we are on the precipice of change (at last) in our industry. An industry which is self-regulated and guilty of little or no progress against scope 3 emissions reduction, social inequality, biodiversity loss and a reputation for marketing; which at best is well intentioned but confusing for the consumer, and at worst increases consumption under the guilt-free label of ‘sustainability’.

Image courtesy of TrusTrace @Fashion Declares Webinar: “ Transparency & Accountability in Fashion Supply Chains 05/10/22

I attended the Compare Ethics Impact Policy event last week in Stratford, which put into context what these changes in the law might mean for fashion brands and practitioners, eloquently broken down into practical insights, by speakers Mary Creagh and Baptiste Carriere-Pradal. The discussion touched on the likelihood for a back-pedaling on sustainability claims by fashion brands, as new laws are enforced. Encouragingly, we are already seeing that new regulation may have some teeth – in the last few month’s brands including ZalandoH&M and Decathlon and ASOS, Boohoo and Asda have been investigated, challenged and in some cases fined for potential misleading ‘sustainability’ claims.

Compare Ethics Impact Policy Impact Event Stratford London, 06/10/22.

 So what are the implications for the fashion industry?

  • In the short term we are likely to see an increased abstinence from brands’ ‘sustainable marketing’ due to a lack of evidence to substantiate their claims and a fear of fines and public shaming. 
  • This is no bad thing, as the focus could and should be on doing the work internally, (which I am in favour of!) and a longterm focus on transparency and increased accountability.
  • What of the role of the consumer? Will public Greenwash-shaming lead to reduced trust and scepticism of valid and substantiated efforts form the industry to drive positive impact?
  • Could it lead to a sea-change: from ‘Greenwashing’ > to ‘Green-hushing’ to a total blackout ‘Green-out’ on sustainability marketing? 
  • Is there a risk that the customer loses interest in sustainability and moves onto the next ‘trend’? Leading to a lack of priority and investment from brands?
  • Or do we stay strong and optimistic that pioneering brands will explore the commercial, social and environmental benefits of forging a transparent and responsible path, building in resilience and avoiding risk in their value chains (yes please!)

    One thing is for sure strong leadership and a longterm view will be required and will be tested by fashion brands during this challenging and transitional phase.

    What do you think about the incoming regulations and implications for the fashion industry? Let me know in comments below…

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