Over the past decade, a growing number of brands and labels have turned their attention toward sustainability, changing design and production methods that minimize both environmental and social harm. Unfortunately, many companies have attempted to capitalize off the sustainability movement through what is commonly known as "greenwashing"—a marketing tactic that misleads consumers into believing products are eco-friendly.
In an effort to spur real industry change, think tank New Standard Institute has released an open-source, data-based guideline titled "Roadmap for the Rebuild." The plan, which was reviewed by scientists and labor experts, lays out the different ways brands, media, and citizens (consumers) can push the industry toward more authentic sustainability initiatives, Fashionista reports.
The guideline urges citizens to collectively demand more transparency when it comes to brands' eco-friendly claims. One way to do that is by signing NSI's petition that calls on companies to provide data and information that proves they are taking steps to "reduce their environmental impact and improve their social impact." Consumers are also encouraged to make better purchasing decisions (buying quality pieces that you truly like) as well as fighting the notion that "new" is always better than "old."
"Make a point to be seen on social media celebrating great design, not wearing something new all the time," the guide reads. "One in three young women consider clothes 'old' after wearing them only once or twice. People follow your lead. Modeling sustainable behaviors is one of the most powerful things you can do and be known for."
The guideline also calls on media outlets to do more research into a brand's sustainability claims, as terms like "ethically sourced material" are often used in press releases with little to no explanation.
"If brands use vague words, and you repeat those vague words, the audience absorbing those words will also have a vague understanding and will not themselves be able to be effective change agents," the plan states. "Fashion press releases cherry pick which impacts a company is working to reduce. You can effectively scrutinize a press release by thinking through all levels of production and all levels of impact, and then help situate these reductions within the broader framework for your audience."
"Roadmap" also provides separate steps for both small and large brands, as their resources and reach are quite different. The guide promotes diversity and inclusion within hiring practices; being transparent about material sourcing and production methods; investing in research that will help reduce environmental impact; and creating garments that will last.
In addition to the "Roadmap" release, NSI has launched a publicly available master class for any stakeholders who want to learn about sustainability in fashion as well as their role in pushing for improved change.