Greenwashing or Real? Take on Zara and H&M’s sustainable lines

It feels out of place –  kind of like seeing a vegan in line at McDonalds.  Rest assured, fast-fashion conglomerates are releasing sustainable collections amidst the copious clothing lines they already offer in their fast fashion department stores. Many questions have crossed my mind when seeing the new advertising for these lines such as: if these lines are “sustainable”, isn’t that a clear admission that everything else you sell isn’t? What are the standards for this line that makes it different and better than anything else sold? Is there a price difference? Lastly, Rosaria Dawson what are you doing promoting a sustainable line for a fast fashion brand when you are a sustainable fashion advocate???? ( I still love you though) 

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H&M’s sustainable line dubbed “conscious collection” is an ode to the future of fashion : To offer you fashion and quality at the best price is our core idea — but to always offer you sustainable and affordable fashion is our future. Made from sustainably sourced materials and/or with sustainable methods, we are proud to present Conscious Collection Spring 2019. Rosario Dawson of course is glowing in earth toned ruffles and draping skirts and dresses. Can it be true? Sustainable chic fashion at fast-fashion prices? My hopes are a yes, but my intellectual side is screaming – obviously this is greenwashing at its finest.

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First of all, there is no part of the website that outlines clearly the sustainable practices being implemented by H&M in this new collection. Whats noted on the website is that its  “made from recycled polyester blends” and “organic cotton is grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers and contains no genetically modified organisms. And it’s just as soft as regular cotton.” There is no clear indication, however, that the line is certified organic by the GOTS or that more rigorous sustainability practices are followed, considering that there is no indication that it is produced in a separate location from every other item they already produce. Usually the positive efforts are the first to be shown and described.

Zara’s new line JoinLife follows a similar route in that the offerings are vague and the guidelines are unclear, but the clothes are still really cute! Zara’s JoinLife sustainable collection is fashionable and affordable, and has a similar appeal to the rest of what they offer. Instead of using synthetic material, the brand is opting for organic and recycled material instead and it is also “animal-friendly” – meaning no additional animals were killed or harmed in the creation of the collection. It also makes big promises:

Our products meet the most stringent health, safety, and environmental sustainability standards.

Our supply chain respects workers and the environment

Up to 90% of our stores are now eco‑friendly

Zara.com’s servers and offices consume energy derived from renewable sources that respect the environment.

I dug a little deeper and while my research could not defend or refute these claims in totality, the brand is in line with the United Nations 2030 sustainable development goals which I thought was great…. but the page’s date it 2017 which is a bit disconnected from their current plans.

While Ive always had a practical way of looking at things – If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. While sustainable fast fashion is like kind of an oxymoron-moron and in many ways is still most definitely still fast fashion, it is still good seeing progress being made and a response being shown to the growing agitation from consumers. I will definitely go in a donate the clothes that I no longer wear to contribute to the program and you should too!