Fast fashion brands going green: a real commitment or a marketing ploy?

read | January 14, 2021

Lately there’s been a push in going green and becoming a more conscious consumer, and this has only been amplified by the Covid pandemic. This is reflected in the fashion industry, with many international brands now offering a sustainable collection and labelling their products with various circular terminologies. While this is a positive change, how can we be certain that fast fashion going green is a real commitment and not just a greenwashing, marketing ploy to increase sales?

H&M’s Re-made collection

H&M is one of the brands taking on this change. In 2019, they started their recycling and reusing initiative by collecting an impressive 29,005 tonnes of textiles (worth about 125 million t-shirts). They are encouraging consumers to drop off their old clothes, which are then either resold as second hand clothes, repurposed into other products such as cleaning cloths, or recycled into textile fibres. They are also looking into upcycling with their Re-made collection from their brand Weekday, where garments from old collections are altered to create styles that are more on point with current trends. 

Zalando’s sustainable strategy

Zalando is another brand that is offering an opportunity to buy second hand clothes with their “pre-owned” collection. They also offer a sustainable fashion line, their focus being working conditions, animal welfare, and environmental impact. According to their corporate sustainable strategy, Zalando intends to reduce their carbon footprint, minimize waste in their packaging, empower women in their factories in South India, and apply the concepts of circularity by extending the life of 50 million fashion products. In fact, Zalando has partnered with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and the Higg Brand & Retail Module (Higg BRM) to ensure that all the brands on their platform adhere to the same sustainability standards. Zalando plans to only sell sustainable brands by 2023. 

Is it enough to have one or two sustainable collections?

It is no doubt encouraging to see these fast fashion brands doing their part to fight climate change. But what does going green really mean? Is selling second-hand clothes and repurposing a few lines enough, while the company is still producing in mass quantities? Is having only a few sustainable collections going to make a big change?

Going circular is the answer to fighting the climate crisis we are facing today. Circularity focuses on using waste materials and turning them into new products, without using any raw materials, while minimising our environmental impact. There are other components as well, such as fair labour wages, safe working conditions, carbon footprint, animal welfare, water use, etc. 

And while many other fast fashion brands seem to be making an effort, they are still creating products in mass quantities, most of which are not sustainably produced. Zalando seems to be heading in the right direction with clearly defined, actionable goals, but they are focusing mostly on sustainability, not on being 100% circular. Other brands that claim to treat their workers fairly, such as Primark, did not even pay their factory staff for all the products that were ordered pre-covid. At least not until extensive campaigns by the organization Labour Behind The Label made them do so. Even then, there was no ensuring on Primark’s end that the wages reached their factory workers.

The truth is, in order to become an environmentally-responsible brand and truly tackle the crisis we are facing today, the apparel industry and fast fashion brands need to reevaluate their entire business model. Becoming a sustainable or circular brand is a commitment, and Ccrave only partners with brands that have made that commitment and implement circular principles in their products

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