How Changing Markets Foundation Disrupted London Fashion Week With Its Virtual Launderette: Everything Comes Out In The (Green)Wash
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Changing Markets Foundation Launched a new website during London Fashion Week, held last month. The virtual computer game-style site shines a light on greenwashing and outs major offenders, via a virtual laundrette. The stunt was supported by Extinction Rebellion, People Tree founder Safia Minney and climate campaigner Bel Jacobs.
Greenwash.com follows on from Changing Market’s Synthetics Anonymous report, published last year. It stated that 62 percent of global consumers are not confident when trying to audit fashion brands’ green claims. Moreover, 60 percent of claims were discovered to be misleading or unverifiable. With 85 percent of U.K. consumers shifting to include sustainable lifestyle choices, the rise in unsubstantiated claims from popular brands has been identified as prolific greenwashing for profit.
Protesting for clarity
Greenwash.com was launched alongside a physical protest, outside the London Fashion Week venue The Old Selfridges Hotel. Activists urged show attendees, company executives and influencers to head to the site, to discover the truth about the brands they were supporting.
“When fashion brands greenwash it’s more than just marketing,” George Harding-Rolls, campaigns adviser at the Changing Markets Foundation said in a statement. “Greenwashing dupes customers into thinking they’re making sustainable choices when they’re not. Worse still, greenwashing can deceive us into thinking that progress is being made and prevents systemic action to alter the destructive trajectory of the fashion industry. Currently, the industry is critically unregulated, creating an open playing field for fashion brands to greenwash with few consequences.”
Coming out in the wash
Changing Markets’ virtual launderette site feels post-apocalyptic. There’s a sense of tense excitement when it opens on your screen for the first time. Simply designed and with an interactive user face, it cleverly draws visitors in, encouraging them to choose between a “quick spin” or a “wash by brand”. Both options reveal the darker side of beloved fashion brands that have been falsely claiming to support climate change initiatives.
Searching by brand brings up an inventory of big hitters that should know better. Amongst them, the H&M Conscious range, M&S, Nike and Gucci feature heavily. Alongside are unsurprising fast fashion names including Shein and Pretty Little Thing. The quick spin feature selects a random product and company, highlighting the greenwashing offences connected to both and providing links to relevant articles for further reading.
The VR game styling is evocative but inherently depressing because there’s no way to win on the platform. Every screen is another example of how we are losing the battle of the climate crisis. It is, however, having an effect and providing education.
“I believe that the website is having a lot of impact already,” Nusa Urbancic, campaigns director for The Changing Markets Foundation exclusively told Green Queen. “We see enormous amounts of engagement on social media with people sharing it and saying how badly needed something like this was. In addition to this, we have sent this to a few policymakers, who also see this as a really important resource in their decision-making on how to regulate green claims and prevent greenwashing. They told us that they really want to become much stricter with the brands that engage in such unfair practices.”
Restricting the greenwashing
U.K. fashion brands are set to be punished if discovered to be engaging in misleading eco claims. Considered to be a consumer protection law violation, brands were given a deadline of December 31 2021 to substantiate all green claims, or remove them. Fines and restrictions will be imposed on any companies found to be in violation of the new rules. New data has not yet been released as to the effectiveness of the deadline, or how brands are seeking to verify their climate-friendly claims.
New York, one of the fashion capitals of the world, has looked to set an example with its new Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act. Any company actively operating within the fashion sector, in New York and generating $100 million in revenue or more will need to lay bare at least half of its supply chain. Unsustainable practices will need to be held to account and any organisations flouting the parameters will be liable for fines of up to 2 percent of annual revenue.
Lead photo shows George Harding-Rolls dressed as a washing machine. Photo by The Changing Markets Foundation.