Episode 40: How to avoid your customers thinking you are Greenwashing




Greenwashing, ACCC, sustainability efforts, small business, fashion organisation, cancel culture.



Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.


Hello, and welcome to episode 40 of the Fashion Unearthed podcast. Today's episode is a fear that is coming up a lot at the moment. So I wanted to talk about ways to feel confident when you're talking about your sustainability efforts. But firstly, I want to thank everyone who has listened to the podcast so far. If you follow me on Instagram, I shared this week that I hit 1000 downloads, which to some people isn't a big deal, but I feel really proud of sticking to my weekly schedule and even though some weeks I've been cutting it fine. Sorry, again to my podcast editor Scott, who will be listening to this. So yeah, I mean, some weeks it's been harder than others, but I've been really proud that I've stuck to it. So yeah, I really just started this as a way to talk about the things that I'm interested in, and what I thought might be helpful to business owners trying to navigate the fashion industry sustainably. If you enjoyed the podcast and got something out of it, I would love it if you took the time to give it a rating on Apple or Spotify and if you've got a bit longer leave a review on Apple. It really helps to get the podcast out there and found by more people like you.


So onto this week's episode. I'm pretty certain that if you're listening to this, then your intentions are good and I doubt that you'd be purposefully wanting to mislead your customers. From the people I've worked with, it's more about not wanting to be seen as in genuine by their customers as they can't do everything they want to do at once and unsure of what the best way to go about it. But with the rise of social media and how quick it is to leave a comment on someone's social media post brands are really fearful that they're going to be called out for greenwashing. So today I just wanted to talk about some tips on how to avoid that so you can feel confident in talking about what you're doing in the sustainability space.


Let's start with the definition of greenwashing. greenwashing refers to when companies and organisations mislead their consumers by making them believe that a product or service they provide or perhaps the organisation itself is environmentally friendly or sustainable when it's not. And this can happen knowingly or unknowingly and it could also refer to companies deflecting attention away from harm that they're causing elsewhere.


Now, within Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission the ACCC is the regulatory body that's in place to help consumers understand their rights, and keep an eye on businesses. So to frame today's topic, I headed there to be clear on what they would expect from businesses around this area. And you'll find a link in the show notes to the article that I referenced as well. That will be on the website in the podcast section under episode 40. So within that article, there are five main areas that the ACCC suggested that businesses focus on to make sure that they are not engaging in greenwashing.


The first one is to be honest and truthful about your sustainability efforts. Be concrete on your plans and make sure your ambitions match your efforts. Now, being honest and truthful, goes for the good things that you're doing but I think customers appreciate it when you're honest when you get things wrong, too. So don't be afraid to I guess put your hand up and say I got that wrong, like, I thought I was doing the right thing. Now, obviously a quick reminder, I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice on how to avoid being pursued by the ACCC but from a consumers point of view, I feel like they appreciate that level of transparency for brands whether it's good or not so good.


Number two, be specific, detail exactly the part of the process or product you're referring to and if you're referring to comparisons or using comparisons with other products, make sure it's like for like. Don't compare jeans to a T shirt or you know different product categories.


Number three use language that the average member of the public understands. So as an example, steer away from using vague buzzwords such as eco friendly.


Number four clearly explain the significance of the benefit. For example, if you're using 100% organic cotton, you could talk about a benefit over conventional cotton being that they don't use pesticides in the farming of it. Rather than only saying something like "Kinder to the planet or earth".


Number five, be ready to substantiate your claim and make sure you have verified the evidence. Don't just assume that the information that a supplier gives you is correct, make sure you dig a bit deeper and validate it yourself.


And number six, this was actually an extra one I added that wasn't on the ACCC, but I thought it was relevant from a consumers point of view. But when you're talking about your sustainability efforts, make it holistic. Talk about what you're doing or plan to do company wide or in a variety of areas within a product's lifecycle.


Finally, I wanted to mention that the ACCC has made greenwashing one of its priorities for 2020 to 23 and this isn't really to scare anyone, because for those businesses that are genuine about their efforts and investing in innovation, it will mean that playing field could be levelled, so I think it could be a positive thing. And from a consumer point of view, I think it will help them be less sceptical when brands talk about their efforts in the sustainability space. But yeah, I just wanted to mention it to make sure that if you are a business owner, just make sure that you're on top of how you're communicating all of your efforts to your consumers because you don't want to unintentionally do something wrong.


So I hope today's episode will help you feel more confident talking about your sustainability efforts. Because if you're doing the work and making the investment and can validate it, you shouldn't be fearful of talking about it.


Again, a reminder, if you do have a spare few seconds, I would love it if you could leave a rating on Apple or Spotify or even a review if you've got a bit longer and as always, you can find the links and any show notes on the website belindahumphrey.com in the podcast section. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.


Thanks for listening to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you want to get in touch head over to belindahumphrey.com or you can find me on Instagram @belindahumphrey_


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change. 



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