Sustainable Marketing in Fashion: Distinguishing the Real from the Gimmick

Sustainability has been an important aspect of fashion in the past two decades. With the fashion industry accounting for 10 per cent of global carbon emissions, it’s only befitting that sustainability be taken seriously by fashion brands.

Of course, marketing is a big part of the whole sustainability movement. But where does this kind of marketing turn from the greater good to the greater profit? If fashion campaigns around sustainability are anything to go by, it seems that the term ‘sustainability’ is gradually becoming another marketing strategy.

Clearly, there’s a need for a better understanding of sustainable marketing.

What is Sustainable Marketing?

Sustainable marketing is not a novice term. Its origins go back to the 70s when the term was used for ecological or environmental marketing, according to a publication in the Business and Professional Ethics Journal.

In simple terms, sustainable marketing is the promotion of environmentally and socially conscious products or services. In the context of fashion, it’s the marketing of sustainable apparel, shoes, and accessories, or even the whole fashion brand.

Many fashion brands take on sustainability projects even if they are not sustainable at their core. They often do so to be more socially responsible but also for the sake of sustainable marketing. There are examples of such marketing all around. For example, Gucci announced two years back that they have gone carbon neutral.

Problems with Sustainable Marketing

Here’s the thing about sustainable marketing: it’s easier to cross the line where marketing becomes greenwashing. It refers to misleading or false information about a brand’s sustainability efforts when it’s actually not sustainable in its operations.

The problem doesn’t just end there. Many sustainable brands that are following compliance standards and employ good manufacturing practices end up being not so sustainable in their marketing.

For instance, a sustainable fashion brand offering two for one or bulk discounts doesn’t sound so sustainable in practice. They are just encouraging consumers to buy more which is in direct contrast to sustainable buying.

Some brands are misleadingly labelling themselves as sustainable by just producing one or two sustainable collections or having a single line dedicated to sustainability.

How to Identify Authentic Sustainable Marketing?

Believe it or not, while many consumers would say they prefer to or only shop from sustainable brands, not many would go the extra mile to confirm that. This leaves room for marketers to greenwash consumers.

A study by Zalando revealed that 60 per cent of consumers valued transparency, but only 20 per cent reported seeking information while buying.

So how can you confirm if the sustainable marketing by a company is authentic and they really are sustainable? Here are some tips:

  • Pay attention to what materials they are using (upcycled or recycled fabric, Tencel, hemp, etc.).

  • Look for the brand and its rating on good on you, Environmental Working Group (ewg), or Fashion Transparency Index (FTI).

  • Visit the website and see how detailed their manufacturing and sourcing process is and if they mention the sources/factories.

  • Search online if the brand is involved in any unethical or environment-damaging practices.

  • Look for reviews from known sustainability editors or bloggers.

  • Contact the brand and inquire where the products are made and where the raw materials come from.

Yes, all of that takes some time and effort, but it’s worth it if you can find your next authentic, sustainable go-to brand whose sustainable marketing you can trust.

La Jolie

For Elemntz