• sciandenvironment

Greenwashing - how green really are your favourite clothes?

Brands like Pretty Little Thing and H&M are among the most popular but also the most likely to lie about how eco their clothing really is.


By Ellie Robertson


Photo courtesy of Sei from Unsplash.


In modern day, climate change is an issue dominant to all countries across the world. The time to act is now according to the IPCC, as they warn that we only have until 2030 to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. So, with the deadline set, it is easy for young people to feel anxious and eager to be part of the solution in securing the future of the planet. The BBC reports that three-quarters of young people find the future frightening due to the threat of climate change. With climate change being such an important and current topic, many brands are quick to jump on the bandwagon and generate their own sustainable brands in a bid to draw in the ‘eco-warriors’ of our generation. Is there much to their claim though? It’s common for companies to exaggerate how eco-friendly their products are, so common in fact that they even gave it a name: ‘greenwashing.’ In this article I will be discussing your favourite brands and diving into whether there is any truth behind their eco-friendly attempts, or if this is a desperate attempt to maintain sales to fill their multi million pound pockets.


Pretty Little Thing


Pretty Little Thing is one of the leading clothes lines in the country for 16 to 25-year-old women. Being the ‘jewel in Boohoo’s crown,’ their cheap and modern designs have managed to allow them to fly to wealth. Having only started in 2012, they now generate a revenue of £516.3 million as of last year. In 2019, we saw that the brand had launched ‘PLT Sustainability,’ which is a range consisting of just over 2,000 items which is mostly loungewear. The business claims to be using materials that are more sustainably sourced in the hopes to reduce the impact the brand has on the environment. Each product within the range is made from materials that are more sustainably sourced such as recycled polyester. Pretty Little Thing Chief Executive, Umar Kamani, commented on the line and said in an Instagram post: “This is another step in the right direction towards sustainable fashion.”


Sounds good, doesn’t it? Is Pretty Little Thing as “Pretty” as it makes out to be? The thing to remember is that this is just talk; words on a screen; a way to draw our earth-loving purses onto their sites. There is no real evidence to the sustainable claim with this line, they have offered nothing in detail on their supplier policies and audits, meaning we don’t even know where their fabrics come from, let alone if they are as environmentally friendly as their brand displays them to be. They also don’t mention at all the action they are doing to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals or if they are even attempting to tackle it all. Taking a step back we can see that this sustainable range is a tiny percentage of their overall clothing, with the brand launching 622 new items in an average week, which is around 96 pieces a day. They really are doing the bare minimum to maximise their environmental influence in the fashion world.


Pretty Little Thing and the rest of the Boohoo group are the best examples of greenwashing giants for our generation, as although they can dress their newest lines in a coat of sustainability, the silence of their actions is deafening in the environmental world. PLT claims to have been making steps towards sustainability, but as far as this writer can see, they’ve barely moved a toe.


H&M


H&M is a staple in any British shopping centre, and one that has been on the high street as long as I can remember. Unlike Pretty Little Thing, H&M goes beyond our laptop screens and has over 280 physical stores in the UK, and holds the title of the second largest fashion retailer in the world- but is it one we should dodge?


As H&M is one of the founding families of fast fashion, they are no stranger to producing a high range of items, and currently spit out about three billion garments a year. This high production rate, however, results in high wastage, with the company being responsible for $4.1 billion worth of unsold clothes in 2019. Unlike Pretty Little Thing, H&M appear to be rather transparent about their environmental efforts, such as publishing a series of goals in their ‘2020 Sustainability & Performance Report’ which has set out some ambitious targets to be met in the next few decades.


The devil really is in the details with H&M, as although they have impressive goals such as using 100% renewable energy by 2030, they have nothing to show that they are making progress to meet this goal.

The devil really is in the details with H&M, as although they have impressive goals such as using 100% renewable energy by 2030, they have nothing to show that they are making progress to meet this goal. Looking into the actual report itself, hidden amongst the details, customers can find out that they have decreased their use of renewable energy to 90% in 2020. Similarly to Pretty Little Thing, customers are fed the dream of a fast fashion brand which is taking a step forward to save our world. In this instance, it appears to be the brand making the promise of one step forward, but then taking two steps back when their young customer base isn’t looking.


Now, I’m in no way trying to make you completely ignore these companies, as I know as a student the pricing and the ability to easily order online can sometimes make these brands a ‘godsend,’ and I myself am tempted to a PLT order occasionally. It is being able to understand that the promises of fast fashion companies like these are just that - promises. My best advice, if you really want to be a part of the solution, is to look up your favourite brands on, goodonyou.eco. This website strips back the greenwashing and allows you to see just how much these businesses really care; the site also gives you more sustainable, animal friendly alternatives, allowing you to be part of the solution, and still have a cute fit to match.