Guest: Amanda Shendruk | Journalist | Quartz
Category: 💬 Opinion | Greenwashing
Podcast’s Essential Bites:
[4:12] CB: "Amanda Shendruk [...] just published a deep and pretty damning investigation of how H&M has been mis labeling their clothes as environmentally conscious when in fact, they're often quite the opposite. The headline says it all: "H&M showed bogus environmental scores for its clothing". [...] Of the 600 women's clothing scorecards on H&M's UK website the week before this article was published in June, more than 100 of them included errors that made less sustainable clothing appear to be the opposite. [...] The links on H&M's website to these scorecards have disappeared."
[6:37] AS: "On the H&M website [...] the Higg Index underneath one of the items that I was looking at. [...] And it just happened that the item that I clicked on, was one of the items that I ended up reporting on, which has this completely incorrect data. So I clicked through to check out the data on the Higg website, because when they had the scorecards on the H&M website, there used to be a link to the profile also on the Higg website. [...] And noticed that the numbers were not the same."
[8:32] AS: "I started by collecting data on 600 items on the H&M website that specifically had the Higg Index scorecards on them. [...] Not every item of clothing on the H&M websites had this index associated with it. In fact, it was a very small fraction of items that had this associated with it. [...] It was something like 8 or 7% of all clothing items that have this index on it. [...] All of these were on a [...] sustainability section."
[14:11] AS: "What I do understand about the Higg Index, it sounds like it has a serious problem with transparency, both with the data and how it works. [...] It sounds like there's kind of like this greenwashing via excessive transparency or the wrong kind of transparency. They don't tell you the information that might be helpful. They just tell you a lot of information that's not as helpful."
[16:23] AS: "The SAC, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which is the caretaker of the Higg Index, one of the founding members was H&M. And so it benefits H&M to uphold this metric. And there are hundreds of the world's largest fashion companies that fund and are members of the SAC. [...] There's a huge conflict of interest."
[26:40] RK: "[The Fashion Transparency Index], this year analyzed 250 of the biggest fashion brands and retailers. And what they mean by biggest is over $400 million in revenue. It scored them from zero to 100%. [...] And they look at the level of public disclosure. So this isn't about environmental impact, or supply chain impact. It's [...] just about transparency. They're just asking the question, how transparent are these companies in 246 different categories, from human rights to environmental policies to practices. The top line takeaway [...] is that most major brands disclose information about their policies and commitments and processes, but don't have any transparency or very little transparency about results and impact."
[27:37] CB: "The data [showed that] 99% [of major fashion brands] do not disclose the number of workers in their supply chain that are being paid a living wage. 14% of major brands report their annual production. There's very little reporting of emissions, especially in their supply chains. And on traceability, only 11% of major brands published some of the raw materials suppliers, like cotton, wool, viscose."
[30:39] SK: "I always look at other industries about what's worked and what hasn't worked. Look at what happened with calorie labeling and restaurants on menus, which has been around for several years now. [...] Study after study shows that ordering habits have not changed and obesity levels have continued to rise in the US. But then take another example of where it was successful. [...] In 1965, the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act mandated that cigarette boxes have that warning slapped on them. But [...] cigarette sales started to decline only in 2002, 37 years later, because it was not enough just to have that information available to consumers, you also needed massive public campaigns, smoking bans, taxes, and social pressure for those rates to start to decline. [...] So many levers need to come together to actually create the change in a meaningful way that will start to have the impacts on people and planet that we need."
Article: "Quartz investigation: H&M showed bogus environmental scores for its clothing" (Quartz, 2022)
Report: "The Fashion Transparency Index 2021" (Fashion Revolution, 2021)