Green or Greenwashing Project

It’s almost Earth Day, which means tons of brands are going to be touting their sustainability initiatives. Green marketing is complicated. Customers care a lot about sustainable and ethical products. They’re willing to pay an upcharge and it increases conversion on items under consideration. But customers also don’t know the ins and outs of fiber types, yarn dying, or fabric milling. The FTC’s “Green Guide” (20 pages of green marketing guidelines) doesn’t exactly make for easy reading. The gap between the our knowledge and intentions leaves a lot of room for brands to enhance the narrative (or straight up lie) in order to make customers feel good about a purchase.

I want to help close the gap. I’ve spent most of my career in apparel in roles spanning from product development where we dream up new products to marketing and merchandising where we try to get that product out the door. But I really learned the most about sustainability at Amazon’s private label team. We had been fined by the FTC for misleading green claims shortly before I started, and Amazon hates paying money to the government. (Just Google the corporate tax rate). Software was put in place to keep products with legally risky claims from launching on site. The only way to get them unblocked was to read pages of consumer protection laws and either find the proper substantiation or remove the claims.

I want to use all this random trivia about fiber types and marketing regulations to help other people navigate their shopping choices. So first, here’s what sustainability means to me:

  1. They use more sustainable fiber types: recycled synthetics, closed-loop semi-synthetics, and regenerative natural fibers.
  2. They follow regulations on how to market green initiatives. They don’t rely on generalized, debatable terms like “eco-friendly” or “sustainable,” and instead use fact based language that’s reflective of their actions.
  3. Pieces are built for the long haul: not only are pieces physically durable, but they’re durable in the face of trend cycles. They’ll be relevent in your closet for years and capture strong resale value if they’re cycled out.
  4. They’re clear on how products are made and how to best dispose of them: transparency about the brand’s green claims builds trust with consumers.
  5. They don’t play games with customer demand: merchants have some tricks and gimmicks to manipulate customer demand: short term promotions, limited time offers, limited quantities and “a few units left” messaging. Sustainable brands give customers the time and space to decide whether they really want an item without creating pressure and mark down what’s left at the end of the season.

With that, let’s get into some brands:


4 thoughts on “Green or Greenwashing Project

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