This article provides a brief explanation of what greenwashing is and why it has become more common. It also includes a look at Fashinza, a business that is guilty of it.
On Monday morning, my friend and sustainable fashion guru, Indra Bishnoi, shared a screenshot with me. This screenshot included an advertisement on Facebook by the apparel manufacturing company, Fashinza (see Figure 1). The advertisement states the manufacturing company can offer t-shirts produced at prices as low as $1.50 per piece, drops names of brands such as Forever21, and even says that they offer t-shirts ranging from 100% cotton to 100% polyester.
You may be thinking to yourself – so what? Well, on Fashinza’s various platforms – such as their Instagram page – the manufacturing company claims it is both sustainable and ethical in its practices and processes (see Figure 2). Both Indra and I discussed the situation, looking through Fashinza’s website, social media pages, and more before coming to the conclusion that Fashinza is guilty of greenwashing. In this article, I will go over what greenwashing is, and how Fashinza is guilty of it.
Greenwashing: A Breakdown
What is it?
Greenwashing occurs when a company or organization chooses to spend their time and effort on marketing itself as sustainable rather than on the creation or implementation of initiatives that would actually improve its level of sustainability. Rather, organizations and individuals tend to do this as an advertising tool, with the intention to mislead consumers looking to purchase goods and services from environmentally and/or ethically conscious brands.
Why is it becoming more common?
Even back in 2014 when I first began learning about greenwashing in school, it was a commonly understood practice for companies and organizations – even if frowned upon – but it wasn’t as commonly utilized as it is today. Why is this? Well, back in 2014, sustainability and business ethics, on the whole, were less of a consideration to big organizations and businesses, as the general public was unconcerned about these issues. Now, in 2021, issues of sustainability and ethical business practices have become part of the conversation, and are more important to consumers than ever before. As such, many companies have been working hard to keep up with consumer desires, using sustainability as a tool to stay relevant. This can be seen in a number of large companies, such as H&M with their “Conscious Collection”, Primark with their announcement that they will be going “100% sustainable,” and Zara with their “Better Cotton Initiative.”
Figures 4 & 5 – H&M Conscious Collection/ Primark Pledge
Greenwashing: How is Fashinza Guilty?
While more businesses should be learning about and implementing sustainability initiatives and efforts, businesses who choose not to make such changes should not under any circumstances state their practices and/or methods are sustainable. This is wrong and deceitful.
When it comes to Fashinza, there are a number of elements I found troubling when looking through the business’s various profiles and pages relating to inconsistencies that can be viewed as greenwashing.
Facebook Ad vs. Instagram Bio
If you take a look at the Facebook Ad mentioned above, it states that the company offers:
- Bulk production
- Global shipping
- Very low prices
- Are trusted by fast fashion companies such as Forever21
- 100% polyester t-shirts
Why are these problems? Well, let’s break down each. First, bulk production can often be another term for mass production, which is now a commonly linked term to fast fashion. Fast fashion items are mass-produced by manufacturers, made of cheap fabrics and in most cases, are poorly made.
Global shipping is definitely commonplace in 2021, however, the environmental impact of shipping purchases across the world can be sizeable. When attempting to understand the cost of the impact of our purchases, we need to consider the entirety of the journey it makes before it actually gets into our hands.
Figures 6, 7 & 8 – Garment Workers / Textile Piles/ Interactive Global Shipping Map
According to Fashinza’s website, they operate from Bangladesh, India, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, with their manufacturers spread throughout these countries. While we by no means take issue with manufacturers and producers from Asia, the environmental costs of shipping bulk items from there to countries around the world, are inarguably significant. As such, for this reason alone, it is difficult to believe Fashinza is not greenwashing when they claim to be sustainable and offer global shipping.
When a company is able to offer extremely low prices such as these (see Figure 1), it is usually a sign of deeper issues. Fast fashion has been found to take a severe toll on its workers, with many clothing manufacturers being situated in countries such as China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and India where the labour is considered cheap and is not well-regulated. According to re/make, few garment workers are paid a living wage, with the typical wage in Bangladesh, for instance, being approximately $97/month. In the hopes of learning more about Fashinza and how they ensure fair treatment and payment of their workers, both Indra and I reached out to the company on Monday morning, but neither of us has yet to receive a response.
In addition to workers’ wages, the cost of fashion is important to the disposable nature of an item. Like many fast fashion companies, their model is fueled by low prices, rapid consumption, and changing trends – all of which oppose their missions of sustainability. According to a 2020 CNN article, “When a shirt costs $5, it’s quickly seen as disposable. We are more likely to dispose of cheaper, mass-produced clothes than more expensive items, according to a 2009 study into consumer habits.”
On Fashinza’s Facebook ad and website, the business provides the names of businesses they trust. Since I didn’t know any of the businesses from personal experience other than Forever21 and H&M I will focus on those two. Both Forever21 and H&M have been dragged through the mud in the media over the past few years in North America for their relationship with fast fashion. In Canada, both chains have become synonymous with fast fashion – churning out poorly made clothing at alarming rates. While H&M has attempted to appear greener over the past decade, implementing in-store programs such as their recycling program, and the Conscious Collection mentioned earlier, the business is as its core modelled to be disposable. As such, it is, by design, unsustainable. For a company like Fashinza to use their relationship with a fast-fashion company such as H&M to promote trust, is laughable really. No truly ethical or sustainable business would choose to be grouped with fast fashion companies such as these.
Lastly, Fashinza’s advertisement states the business offers a range of materials, from 100% cotton to 100% polyester. Synthetic fibres such as polyester, are plastic fibres. As such, they are not biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose. Synthetic fibres are also made from fossil fuels, making their production much more energy-intensive than natural fibres.
All of the elements provided in the Fashinza Facebook ad are in direct contrast with their self-described bio on Instagram. They cannot be ethical and sustainable while also providing the services and products that they do, the way they do. If the company chooses to move forward with their current operations, it should not by any means be using sustainability or ethics as a tool to get ahead. All in all, Fashinza is guilty of greenwashing as it is being dishonest about its true level of commitment.
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