Greenwashing is not washing something green!
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see the image above? I know what you're thinking - green, eco and natural. Right? Gotcha!
This is a phenomena that has been increasing around the United Arab Emirates recently. Two encounters happened to me that illustrates the Greenwashing marketing concept adapted in the fashion, food and (everything pretty much) industry. Especially in the past couple of years, it is hard not to notice it.
Weeks back, I spent the weekend with my sisters in Dubai and decided to have brunch at Box Park. While strolling around, we noticed the "concept" stores around the area. We got curious and walked into one of them. The hangers were made out of wood, and the colours, OF COURSE, had the same colour palette and texture as the image above. I got excited, and thought, "Wow the attention to detail is impressive, even the hangers are made out of wood". Naturally, I started asking the saleswoman questions (in my head I was totally convinced that I am the Sustainable Fashion detective).
Me: "Hello, can you tell me about the concept of the store? It's very minimalistic and interesting".
Saleswoman: "Yes, these are labels from all over Europe."
Me: "But why do you have wooden hangers, and everything looks so natural".
Saleswoman: "Because everything here is organic, we have 100% organic cotton clothes".
She pointed out the "organic cotton" shirts, and I looked closely at the label tag. I saw a few alarming bells, it was not GOTS certified. Which is a certification that will become your best friend if you love wearing cotton. It is an affirmation that you are purchasing an organic cotton garment.
Similarly, when I was looking for an ethical label here in the U.A.E. I come across a website that has "an organic line" plus a yoga studio. This was based in Dubai too, and they were promoting the "green" lifestyle, and conveniently you can purchase their "natural Yoga Mat", and "natural Yoga wear". I simply called them and asked where these products were made. They were confused on why I was asking those questions.
Yoga saleswoman on the phone: "These are shipped from the U.S.A, all organic and natural".
Me: " And where is it made? In the U.S.A?"
Yoga Saleswoman: "No, it is made in China but we buy it from a company in the U.S.A".
These incidents just got to me, because the gullible customer (I was one of those customers until 2016) will be enticed to walk into the SUPER minimalistic "green" store. Will happily purchase clothes or/and accessories thinking "I am so happy I spent money on this SUPER unique amazing quality piece". But in fact, they had fallen for the Greenwashing marketing strategy that makes you think that what you're buying is what you're getting. After a couple of years, or months even you start seeing holes in your T-shirts and the money spent had contributed to child labor and sad hands.
The good news is (YES there is GOOD news) is that the reason Greenwashing is more popular than ever, is because the customer is more conscious and wants transparency. They want to contribute to the well being of everyone involved in the supply chain, to invest in a better world and earth. If the shop owners pay more attention to where they are sourcing their products from, they will gain extremely loyal customers and increase their sales because they are putting the extra effort in transparency.
If you are a designer or just love DIY's, Sekem is a Sustainable Development organisation in Egypt, Cairo that has organic farms and GOTS certified cotton. I visited them last Winter, and their cotton was super soft. They also have a sewing factory where they can produce any design you have using their cotton, they export their products mainly to Europe. Definitely worth checking them out!