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What is Greenwashing? The Legal Edition

Stop buying fast fashion! Send a loud message to the fashion industry! It is ok to keep buying and just put pressure on "dirty companies"? This is a common debt when fashion industry insiders gather together to talk about sustainable fashion.

The truth is neither answer is right or wrong. They are both paths to the same commitment a sustainable supply chain.

There is no wasted effort here and there are many ways you can contribute to the sustainable fashion conversation. But where to start? How do you know the label is telling the truth and the product you are about to buy is actually eco-friendly?

Deanna Clark-Esposito is a New York City based Federal Compliance Attorney

That is why the we sat down with an expert. We want to better understand how we can avoid greenwashing and of course share the information with our readers.

Deanna Clark-Esposito is a New York City based Federal Compliance Attorney, Professor at the Fashion Institution of Technology and author of A Practical Guide to Fashion Law and Compliance. I first met Deanna at her New York City office where she joked about being a San Francisco native who learned how to recycle before learning how to walk.

Deanna shared a story: before starting her sustainable fashion journey she saw a newspaper ad reading, "12 cents for cheap labor in Haiti". Deanna started to question how people can live on such a low wage. From that moment on she had a new future in fashion law. Peace and Conflict would become Deanna's area of study.

In October of 2018 Deanna was a keynote speaker at The Sustainable Fashion Forum hosted by Fashiondex and LA Textile. She advised the crowd of sustainable fashion industry insiders on how to avoid greenwashing.

So what is greenwashing: Greenwashing is a term used when a company or product makes the claim that a product or service is eco-friendly and actually causing harm to the environment.

There are a few companies that always come to mind when the topic is greenwashing comes up, cough-cough, H&M and Nike. Let’s be clear neither company built a sustainable supply chain. Both companies will produce a line or collection that is “eco-friendly”. They also have built other ways to promote sustainable practices such as, recycle your used clothes. Unfortunately, companies will use greenwashing to convert lookers into buyers. And many times these buyers think they are doing good for the planet, but the actual product will leave a carbon footprint. In the H&M model, there is a higher amount of clothes being produced than is recycled.

As a Federal Compliance Attorney Deanna works within the fashion industry to help guide clients to work within The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations.

It is important to understand this guidelines so consumers are not mislead. Designers and companies that do not comply with FTC will have to pay fines for not following the laws. These laws are set by The Federal Trade Commission which exists to protect consumers from unfair business practices. And as always for legal advice please contact a legal professional.

It is important for both consumers and companies to understand how FTC regulations relate to the buzz terms we all hear. It is the way to know that a product's marketing is authentic.

Here is an overview: Biodegradable- A product is only biodegradable if it breaks down in a year and does not need to go to landfill.

Compostable- All material will break down or become part of the Earth in a safe and timely matter.

Non-toxic- Shows evidence that it is safe to people and the environment

Recycled- Materials recovered from or diverted from the waste train.

Renewable Energy- Must be 100% renewable This is just a snapshot of the information. If you are starting a fashion brand and can not hire a lawyer we highly recommend you order Deanna Clark-Esposito’s book, A Practical Guide to Fashion Law and Compliance. As an Adalinda reader check out with discount code FASHIONLAW18 and enjoy 20% off your order.

For more resources on sustainability and fair labor visit

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