Greenwashing Unveiled: Understanding Deceptive Practices and the Need for Action

With the prevalence of greenwashing, consumers need to sharpen their insight and embrace their wit to navigate the deceptive landscape

Fashion encompasses more than just the products it offers—it encompasses the perception it imparts. Fashion brands have long recognized the power and potential of their industry, employing persuasive communication tactics to sway their audience. While using these tactics and creative strategies in the advertising domain to evoke emotions, convey aspirations, and embody brand values may seem harmless, a different scenario arises when these advertising techniques are applied to sustainability.


Contrasting Advertising Approaches in Fashion

Throughout the history of fashion communication, many brands have preferred a more poetic and connotative representation of their products, aiming to convey the emotions they evoke when worn. This approach has given rise to two distinct schools of thought within the fashion advertising domain. The first school of thought focuses on the “image” of the product, aiming to portray it in its entirety, showcasing its features and making it the protagonist in visual representations. The second approach, known as the “imaginary” approach, aims to convey feelings, attitudes, and contextual elements associated with specific clothing, promoting an aspirational message that aligns with a desired lifestyle.

While these legitimate advertising techniques continue to persist, the fashion industry has recently ventured into utilizing a connotative approach to sustainability. Unfortunately, this misapplication of advertising principles to green marketing has resulted in the proliferation of false and vague claims, commonly known as greenwashing.


From Storytelling to Deception

Greenwashing refers to the deceptive practice of making false or exaggerated claims about a company’s environmental efforts with the intention of appearing more sustainable than they are.[1] It is a way for fashion brands to capitalize on the growing consumer demand for eco-friendly and ethical products without implementing substantial changes to their production processes.[2] It is of utmost importance, however, that we recognize and confront greenwashing within the fashion industry. By doing so, we can hold brands accountable for their actions and urge them to adopt genuine sustainability practices.

Greenwashing not only misleads consumers but also undermines the endeavors of genuinely sustainable brands that are actively working to make a positive impact on the environment. It perpetuates a culture of superficiality and obstructs real progress from being achieved. Consumers possess the power to demand transparency and actively support brands that prioritize sustainability over profit margins. By educating ourselves about the tactics employed in greenwashing and making conscious choices, we can contribute to a more responsible and authentic fashion industry.

The Insidious Effects of Greenwashing

Greenwashing should be fought for three main reasons: it can undermine the relationship of the brand with customers, society, and investors.

  1. Greenwashing erodes the trust customers place in a company’s environmental impact, giving rise to skepticism and mistrust. When companies make false or exaggerated claims about their sustainability efforts, it not only misleads consumers but also creates confusion about the authenticity of their statements and underlying motivations. Such deceptive practices undermine the bond between brands and their customers, eroding the foundation of trust that sustains long-term relationships. Greenwashing can also potentially compromise business performance as well as the relationship between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) performance and Corporate Social Responsibility reporting due to a lack of transparency. The attitude of the corporation toward the environment and society must be measured in a clear and understandable way for the stakeholders to be able to properly evaluate the effort.


  1. The impact of greenwashing extends beyond individual consumers, affecting society as a whole. By promoting false sustainability narratives, greenwashing distorts resource allocation and hampers overall social well-being. From diverting attention and resources away from genuine sustainability initiatives to perpetuating a culture of superficiality, greenwashing undermines the progress that could be made towards a more responsible and authentic fashion industry. Recognizing the far-reaching consequences, regulators need to intervene to counteract the harmful effects of greenwashing on society, ensuring a more sustainable future for all.


  1. The influence of greenwashing extends to the realm of investments. Companies that engage in greenwashing practices not only deceive customers but also instill fear in investors. The association with deceptive practices can erode investor trust and have a negative impact on the market. It becomes increasingly challenging to make informed investment decisions when a company’s claims of sustainability lack reliability and authenticity. Genuine environmental, social, and governance factors are crucial for making responsible investment choices, and greenwashing obscures these essential considerations.


No More Time to Waste

The deceptive nature of greenwashing offers no positive outcomes for any stakeholder invested in a brand. While customers may not have complete control over this issue, they can play an active role in combating it.

With a keen eye and a touch of skepticism, we can strip away the layers of deceptive marketing and expose the true colors of greenwashing. It’s time to break free from the clutches of false sustainability claims and demand transparency and authenticity from the fashion industry.

After all, greenwashing may try to cloak itself in eco-friendly garb, but we won’t be fooled. Let’s shine a spotlight on the truth, making informed choices that align with our values and propel the fashion industry towards a genuinely sustainable future. Because when it comes to greenwashing, ignorance is not fashionable anymore.



[1] “The Definition of Greenwashing.” Available at: greenwash, v. : Oxford English Dictionary (

[2] “An Integrated Framework to Assess Greenwashing.” Available at:


Author: Giuseppe Scandariato