Nowadays we hear a lot about eco-responsibility… So much so that the meaning is lost… and consumers find it hard to trust and we understand them.
Indeed, it’s apparently quite easy to present oneself as “eco-responsible” by showing only certain aspects of this RESPONSIBILITY… So we wanted to put things into perspective and above all to spot … greenwashing. Well, it’s back in another form, yes!
This article refers mainly to the textile industry. The one we know best. But it is valid for all sectors, all companies, and all sizes of companies, in general the reflection is the same.
So what is eco-responsibility?
In fact, it is very simple, it is simply a set of actions in our daily lives that aim to limit the various impacts on the environment. This can be a choice in terms of our purchases, a choice of management or raising the awareness of those around us. Eco-responsibility therefore involves more conscious purchases, the implementation of good practices to limit waste, to improve consumption, etc. This is for private individuals.
For companies, it means offering products that are ecological, ethical, produced in a respectful way, that are sustainable, and being aware of the responsibility that we have as a company for the world and its future.
The criteria to be respected as a brand
It is easy for brands to claim to be environmentally responsible, but what criteria should be respected to enable customers to assess the degree of environmental responsibility of the brand and therefore see its efforts to limit its impact on the environment? There are different things to take into account:
The products materials composition
It is very important for you, the consumer, to pay attention to the materials used in the products you buy. What should catch your attention first are the raw materials, where they come from, whether they are natural or not, whether there is an artificial process, whether they are chemical or not,… So many questions that already give a clue about the degree of eco-responsibility.
But beware, natural materials do not necessarily mean eco-responsible. For example, cotton is a natural material that can be very harmful to the environment if it is not certified organic. And no, Oeko-tex is not eco-responsible or ecological, because the use of GMOs, hazardous chemicals and pesticides is allowed.
Manufacture and origin of the product
It is not only the country of manufacture that is important, but also the way in which the people behind the production are treated. It is important when talking about eco-responsibility that the farmers and the people behind the production are treated well, that their workplace is healthy and good for the environment and that their income allows them to (over)live, that they have a living wage and not a minimum wage, regardless of the country of production.
But what is most important is not to limit one’s assessment to the garment factory, which is only the last step in a long chain, and which some brands mention exclusively to say “made in Europe”, “made in France”, while premeditatedly hiding the country of origin and the working conditions of the weaving, dyeing and spinning factories.
We sometimes forget that transport plays an important role in our ecological footprint. And contrary to popular belief, production in Portugal or Europe is not necessarily more environmentally friendly than production in Asia, for example. Indeed, it is preferable for products to be transported to the destination country by train or boat rather than by plane or truck for shorter or longer distances. The raw material has to be transported anyway, mostly from Asia or the Middle East, so sometimes this doubles the distance. Plus the fact that transporting raw materials takes much more space/waste than final priducts.
Sustainability vs. quality – a balance must be struck
Durability and quality are two things that go hand in hand but do not mean the same thing.In fact, durability is simply the life cycle of the product. A durable product is therefore a product that will be used for a longer period of time and with a minimum of impact. But it should not be forgotten that a good quality product is more likely to last a long time. That is why durability and quality are linked. But when we talk about quality, what exactly are we talking about?
For a product to be of good quality, the basis of the product must also be good quality! The quality of the product therefore starts with the choice of the raw material. This requires regular checks to ensure that the raw material has been sourced and produced in the correct manner. In the case of Kalani, we ensure that the cotton we use for our linen is natural long staple cotton, organically grown and GOTS certified. This ensures that the cotton is organically grown, traceable, ethically produced and free from products that may be hazardous to our health, our customers’ health, the health of the farmers and the workers in the production process.
Eco-responsibility and certification labels
Nowadays it is very important to be certified, especially when we are an ecological, organic, ethical and Fairtrade brand. It will allow us to be transparent about the origin of our materials. To prove its eco-responsibility, the best thing a brand can do is to be certified. This is the only guarantee that what is said is true, verified and justified. There are several types of certification that brands can obtain when they meet the strict rules of the organisations that grant them. Among these certifications you will find :
- GOTS = 100% Organic + Ethical + Health + Safety
- Fairtrade = 100% ethical
- PETA = Respect and welfare of animals
- REACH and Oeko-Tex = health + safety
Eco-responsibility vs. greenwashing – how to tell the difference
Indeed, more and more brands and new brands claim to be eco-friendly, but in truth they are only halfway or even less than that. They use the word eco-responsibility but when you dig a little deeper, you can quickly realise that it’s just a question of certain words used here and there, which can give you the impression of a certain eco-responsibility! This is called “greenwashing” and its aim is to give an eco-brand image with a misleading and therefore false ecological responsibility! We have an article about greenwashing that you can find on our blog and here are a few tips on how to avoid being fooled into buying from brands that claim to be “eco-responsible”:
- Avoid focusing on ‘made in’ as in reality this just reassures consumers but does not guarantee that the product has been made in an environmentally friendly way and often says nothing about the previous stages of manufacture. Find out before you buy!
- Don’t believe everything you are told, look for concrete evidence. For example, recognised certification labels (by checking the certification number on the label’s website).
- Buy products from brands that are transparent about their manufacturing processes, products etc.