The Great Greenwashing Machine, Part 2

White Paper reveals fashion’s incorrect environmental assessments, authored by Veronica Bates-Kassatly, Dorothee Baumann-Pauly and The Geneva Center For Business and Human Rights (GCBHR)

The second in a series of papers highlights that the environmental impact of fashion is not being correctly assessed.

The first white paper in the series: The Great Green Washing Machine Part 1: Back to The Roots Of Sustainability demonstrated that in fashion, at the present time, sustainability is not properly defined, and the vital metric – impact on the multidimensionally poor – is not considered. Those who have the least freedom and opportunity to live the lives they value – farmers, primarily, but not exclusively in the global south – are not consulted, and their complaints are ignored. All sustainability assertions in fashion are based solely upon purported environmental impact, whilst the impact on farmers of the major agricultural (cotton) sustainability programs is not accurately captured, if at all.

This second whitepaper demonstrates that even the environmental impact of fashion is not being correctly assessed, neither broadly, nor narrowly.

Current assessments are broadly incorrect for two reasons. Firstly, because measurement is cradle to gate rather than cradle to grave so the harmful outcomes in some garments’ use and disposal are ignored. And secondly, because impacts are calculated per kilo, when what really matters – what is key – is impact per wear.

Clothes are supposed to be worn multiple times, and if garments of some fabrics are worn many times more than others – and that does appear to be the case – then that should be included in sustainability calculations. If a dress “costs” 12, whether that is US Dollars or an environmental measure, and it is worn once, the cost is 12 per wear. If another dress “costs” 1,200, and is worn 100 times, the cost/impact is also 12 per wear. The difference is that at the end of those ‘100 times’, in the first case there are 100 dresses to dispose of, and in the second, only one.

Throughout this report, an associated action point for each concern is provided for policymakers and corporations, ensuring that in meeting the needs of the present, organisations are not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.