The fashion sector is awash with certification schemes, sustainability labels and multi-stakeholder initiatives all seeking to steer the industry onto a greener course. As public and political awareness of the high environmental and social toll of the fashion industry has climbed the agenda, and scrutiny on brands has intensified, so has the visibility of certification schemes and voluntary initiatives pitched as holding the solutions.
The existence of such schemes serves a dual purpose for the brands. As the fashion industry is one of the least regulated sectors in the world, these schemes partially exist as a genuine attempt to move towards sustainability in the absence of environmental legislation. But they also enable the proliferation of ‘greenwashing’ on a remarkable scale. Whether it is the use of certification labels on individual products – assuring customers that they can shop guilt free by putting their money where their values lie – or brands proudly communicating their membership of various fashion-related voluntary initiatives, the existence of these schemes and the inherent lack of accountability within them are a key part of the greenwashing machinery of the modern fashion industry. Moreover, the level of influence exercised by fashion brands in these initiatives and the lack of any independent oversight, inevitably means that they end up promoting industry interests.