Companies like H&M willfully mislead consumers about their impact on the environment. With sustainable products becoming trendy, it’s no surprise that marketing campaigns use greenwashing to their advantage. The way that corporations greenwash their brands and claim to fight climate change appalls me. It’s completely fake. The fashion industry hugely exploits the concept of sustainability, along with major airline companies, car manufacturers and even search engines.
Green corporations are vastly more unethical than the public knows, but there’s hope for improvement.
Unethical Business Practices
Corporate sustainability merely distracts consumers from things that big companies refuse to do, such as actually help the environment. It ignores the system that these corporations work in, forgetting the true instigator of the issue: the fossil fuel industry. Focusing on individual and corporate action entirely removes the blame from the most responsible party.
These companies distract customers from seeking out meaningful action, pretending to support mainstream social movements while going behind the public’s back. Woke capitalism runs rampant, but rarely do any industries truly believe in the rhetoric they put out.
For example, in 2020 Microsoft railed against corporate greenwashing, pledging to aid the climate crisis. Yet, they donated money to a candidate who would keep the Senate in conservative hands. Many other corporations have done the exact same thing as Microsoft. Bank of America, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Ford and Dominion Energy all have claimed to support ambitious climate action — all while donating to candidates who have never shown an interest in climate change.
Astoundingly, climate change remains a partisan issue, even though it affects everyone regardless of political affiliation. All 50 Senate Republicans voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that provides more than $350 billion dollars towards promoting clean energy, while all 50 Democrats voted for it. In the end, Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote, allowing it to pass through the Senate. After, the House also passed the bill, but again with no Republican votes.
The Influence of Fame and Celebrity
Money is the root of all evil, and some people really play into that. Elon Musk, a heralded hero for climate action, is a fraud. Insidiously wealthy, Musk really isn’t as eco-friendly as he leads the public to believe. Tesla itself saw backlash for its inhumane treatment of Indigenous populations in a lithium mine in Argentina.
Furthermore, Musk’s commercial space program, SpaceX, is not sustainable. SpaceX causes significant damage to the environment. The company launches in South Texas, but off of an ecologically sensitive plot of land. Failed rocket launches litter the ground in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and we’ve observed a visible decrease in animal activity.
Giving Musk celebrity status and allowing him to be sensationalized in the media allows people to forget that at his base, he’s a business owner with a profit margin to make. Lauding him as a hero, an everyday person, as down-to-earth or for the people allows him to get away with unethical behavior.
People like Musk hurt climate action. Bordering both sides of the fence, dipping his toes into both sustainability and unethical means of production, Musk and billionaires like him won’t save the planet. On the contrary, they’re more preoccupied trying to find a way off of the planet. The movie “Don’t Look Up” has never felt so real.
Real Sustainability in Corporations
It’s not all bad, though. Some companies, surprisingly, keep their word.
Patagonia, for example, actually recognizes its impact on the planet. During last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, they claimed that they no longer want to be called a sustainable brand, as they’re still part of the problem. Since then, the company has aimed to reduce its carbon footprint by cutting emissions throughout the supply chain. This company doesn’t behave the same as most others. They offer a repair and reuse program and reject the idea of fast fashion. Patagonia has also conducted research on the impact of microplastics. In a very unbusinesslike move, Patagonia even discourages customers from buying too many of their products, attacking consumerism in the brand itself. They also ensure a livable wage for their employees and boast a formal animal welfare policy.
Good On You, an online catalog for sustainable brands, has reviewed thousands of different clothing labels after comparing impacts on the planet, people and animals. It’s shocking just how many well-known brands negatively impact the world. Old Navy, H&M and Levi’s all rank at three out of five on the site indicating that they may have policies aimed towards becoming more sustainable or have claimed to start implementing these policies, but haven’t taken enough adequate, tangible steps to ensure their brand is eco-friendly.
Few brands earn a five out of five ranking, but the ones that do are typically small, unheard of and expensive due to their sustainable distinction.
Holding companies accountable in the fight against climate change sounds like a big and grand notion, but it is as simple as not buying from unethical corporations. If calling up your local representatives to talk about climate change sounds like too much, you’re not alone. Talking about these difficult, impending-doom topics can stress anyone out. Nonetheless, it’s important to send a message to those in power.
Very few industries or corporations can be truly eco-friendly and sustainable. Unethical business practices are paramount, and people with power walk both sides of the political aisle regarding climate change. Luckily, there’s room for growth and change on the horizon. Still, getting a majority of corporations to follow suit will be no small task.