Greenwashing leads to confusion about which brands and products are genuinely sustainable and which are not. This is especially true because large fast fashion companies have much more money and visibility to reach the masses compared to truly sustainable leaders. People with limited knowledge about sustainability tend to believe brands quickly, especially if they like to shop from them. A beautiful, green clothing label? Surely, it's a sustainable garment. A big 'sustainable' sign on the storefront? Definitely a sustainable brand. But how can people make informed choices if they don't know what sustainability really means?
Furthermore, greenwashing makes people more skeptical of claims by genuinely sustainable brands. Only 9.7% of the 100 sustainable campaigns are seen as credible by consumers (Vermeulen and Verleye, 2023). Even companies that call themselves sustainable are believed by only 22.2% of consumers. The less they are believed, the less support they will receive in their mission. Yet, we need them to change the fashion industry.
Finally, let’s not neglect the internal effect of greenwashing on the companies culture. Existing shareholders (focused on quick profits) may see benefits in the artificially created green image, while idealistic colleagues may leave the company if their critical comments are not acted upon. This can lead to an increasingly homogeneous culture that hinders significant investments in active sustainability.