Iâ€™ve had a question going around in my head for a while: How much does the average consumer believe in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies of the multinational retailers? And how much do we believe in what they proclaim (answers welcome!).
Taking H&M and their Conscious Collection â€“ made from organic cotton but nonetheless still made in India, Cambodia etc â€“Â it makes me wonder what the proportion of greenwash versus â€˜actually wanting to act sustainably for more than merely marketing reasonsâ€™ really is. Of course H&M arenâ€™t the only ones; Nike has their Considered range, which can be disassembled; Unilever is trying, amongst others, Â to promote hygiene in Africa to reduce diseases
Having been enrolled at a fashion institute for four years, I imagine I might have been able to gather a couple more insights than some people, but really â€“ itâ€™s not rocket science. When a shirt costs around Â£15 in store, it wouldâ€™ve probably cost no more than Â£2 to produce. Everyone along the production line of that particular shirt, from the person who grows the cotton, the team who pick it, dye it, drive it around, turn it into yarn, into fabric, into its individual pieces and sew them together, needs to have earned a living â€“ all that for Â£2.
When giving this a little thought, it does make you ponder over the greenwash/showing responsibility and integrity ratio.
Listening to Dominic Balmsforth from susturb at Fallon Festival last week, my thoughts seem confirmed. He seems to believe there is hardly any crossover between those aspects, and even worse: That weâ€™re a long way off, too. That it will take more time for brands to be truly wanting to act more sustainably and collectively. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Today, I read about the sales in the natural cleaning product section: While sales for the likes of Method and Seventh Generation are on the rise, the sales of more inauthentic natural cleaning productss are stagnating.
Things are changing, but we need to push for more. I realise that in todayâ€™s society, consumption has become deeply ingrained in many people, to the extent that we feel pressured into buying the latest fashions, which stretch from skinny jeans to bootcut styles within only a couple of seasons. Whatever we might feel that magazines are trying to tell us, essentially there are promoting styles so disparate from one another to lead you back into the shop to hunt for the latest styles. I strongly believe that more people are becoming aware of the unnecessary aspects of fashion. Still, II realise that a lot of people rely on the high street shops as the source for their clothes. I could only advise that, when the possibility is there, to choose something manufactured within or in the near proximity of the European Union over an item that gets shipped in from the Far East. Whilst it is not only the logistical aspect of shipping the items to the market, it is also the geographical vicinity to the EU that calls for stricter regulations and checks on labour policies â€“ and social responsibility. Whilst it might not make a massive difference to the retailer, it makes at least a small difference in my conscience when I Â succumb to the offering of the major retailers.
What we need to pay more attention to, and cherish, are the brands who truly exists to make a difference â€“ brands where integrity and actual social responsibility are intrinsically woven into the fabric of the company. Without wanting to dismiss every eco line as greenwash, I think we need to use common sense in what we believe. We need to carefully consider how little money is made from a sustainable collection itself, and how much money is spent on marketing to promote said product. And then think about how much sales are generated because consumers perceive that brand as being green, sustainable and socially responsible.