At Fashion Week, the Apparel Industry Needs to Redefine "Sustainability."

Michael Posner
By Michael Posner
New York Fashion Week kicks off Friday with an expressed focus on sustainability, an important issue for the $3 trillion dollar apparel industry, whose activities account for more than 5% of the world’s carbon emissions. The event’s organizers at the Council of Fashion Designers of America deserve credit for including a range of panel discussions on “sustainability strategies” amid the runway shows, but there is a significant gap between how the industry talks about sustainability and what companies do about the issue. Three problems illustrate the discrepancy.

First is the problem of “greenwashing,” which refers to corporate advertising or marketing that portrays a company’s products or policies as environmentally friendly when they are not. Sadly, greenwashing is quite common in many industries. Too many companies make misleading or outright false claims about their impact on the environment that many consumers may assume to be true.

A recent study conducted by Behavioral Insights Team, a British consulting firm, surveyed more than 10,000 people, aged 16-25, in 10 countries about corporate environmental claims. More than half believed that misleading information about a company’s environmental practices was reliable. The survey also found that even “consumers who were more concerned about the environment were highly susceptible to greenwashing.”

Read the full Forbes article.
Michael Posner is the Jerome Kohlberg Professor of Ethics and Finance, Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.