Daily Insights

Greenwashing vs. CSR

By: Matt Moorut | Oct 01, 2019

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been a hot topic in the fashion industry for some time, especially among luxury brands. At the recent G7 summit, a group of 150 brands backed Kering’s lead in supporting a Fashion Pact – with targets for reducing plastics and greenhouse gas emissions while encouraging the sharing of best practices in sustainable fashion.

Apparel brands have followed suit, with some experimenting with on-demand manufacturing in an effort to make clothes shopping more sustainable. Weekday—a H&M Group brand—is running a manufacturing concept that allows customers to choose from two styles, both made from 100% organic cotton, which are customizable with a variety of print, text and sticker options. Products are manufactured in a nearshore production facility, reducing carbon emissions and delivery times.

This is being coupled with reusable packaging via a partnership with RePack, in which products are packed at H&M factories, and customers receive discounts if they return the packaging to a nearby drop-off point.

Weekday follows in the footsteps of brands like Levi’s, which launched Project F.L.X. in February 2018 to reduce wastage and chemical formulations while increasing speed to market.

These manufacturing changes are partly commercial-driven, as brands aim to reach Gen Z and millennial shoppers, who value ethical production more than prior generations. As shown in Gartner L2’s Fashion Global report, average monthly search volume for sustainable fashion keywords increased by 121% in 2018, compared with a 24% increase in searches for luxury fashion keywords.

Index brands are successfully achieving increased engagement by incorporating sustainability messages, not just into social media outreach, but consistently across all owned channels and websites, as described in Gartner L2’s Insight Report on CSR.

Still, while 39% of brands in the Fashion Global 2018 study mentioned sustainability on Instagram, only 29% host a dedicated sustainability page on their website, and only 6% reference production ethics on product pages.

As more brands attempt to leverage their CSR initiatives to reach their audience, it’s likely that more effort will be needed to cut through ‘greenwashing’ noise to surface impactful programs. Although, collectives such as the Fashion Pact and brands’ own holistically-planned CSR launches offer the best chances of doing so.