By Arwa Lodhi
Ok, we were raised with the command: ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, best not to say anything at all’, but after reading again and again about these brands in various eco-fashion publications, we here at Eluxe felt it was time to speak up.
We’re sure these names below are brands you think are eco friendly because they make green claims–however, these are often false, while others have marketed themselves as eco-friendly, but are no better than the average company.
To be fair, defining a true eco-friendliness difficult–even if a company creates fashion from all-organic fibres and vegetable colours, if they’re fuelling their operations with dirty diesel or coal, and then air-freighting the final products out to global markets, is that more sustainable than a brand that uses non-organic cotton but energises their factory with wind power? If a beauty brand uses only recyclable materials in their packaging and donates some profits to green charities, can they still be considered ‘green’ if their makeup is loaded with harmful chemicals?
Ultimately, it’s you who decides, but to better make such decisions, we’d like to present some information below that you might find very interesting indeed….
1. LUSH Cosmetics
Lush love using environmental causes in their marketing. In fact, they used to supply the Body Shop with cosmetics in the 80s, and they’ve worked with Vivienne Westwood (see below) on the Climate Change Revolution campaign, and are renowned for crazy publicity stunts, like doing ‘animal testing’ on a live, naked woman.
Through these activities, combined with Lush’s policy of not testing on animals (now illegal throughout the EU anyway) and their ‘corner-deli food-container’ types of packaging, many believe this is an eco-friendly brand, almost pure enough to eat. However, many of their products are packed with harmful preservatives, including parabens and ‘parfum’, that nebulous, obscure ingredient that can serve as a euphemism for myriad nasties. In fact, their ‘parfums’ are so strong, you can literally smell them from outside on the street–there’s no way anything natural can penetrate the city air outside Lush’s shops like that. On their website, the company makes their excuses for the use of these chemicals, but with so many totally natural brands out there, it’s very hard indeed to justify the use of chemicals anymore, especially when a company markets itself using words like ‘fresh’ and ‘natural’ all the time.
What’s more, despite their strong position against animal testing, 33% of their products are still not suitable for vegans–in other words, they contain animal products. As for waste, their shop floors are full of ‘raw’ soaps and ‘deli’ type bins full of ‘freshly made’ creams and masks, giving the impression that Lush uses almost no packaging at all. However, customers have to do the dirty work, putting their products in plastic tubs to buy them, and even when the ‘raw’ bath bombs and soaps are purchased, they too are put into a clear little cellophane bag at the counter. Then that is put into a paper bag, and a copy of Lush’s newspaper/marketing tool, the Lush Times is included in the bag. So in short, you leave with a load of packaging, but are under the illusion when you walk in that almost none is used. Nice trick, Lush!
2. The Body Shop
Founded way back in 1976 by Anita Roddick, The Body Shop was one of the first companies to decry animal testing and to use Fair Trade, natural ingredients in some of their products. The Body Shop also champions various social causes and supports developing communities by their purchasing hemp, Shea butter and other locally harvested products. But the good news ends there.
Today, like most big cosmetic companies, the Body Shop’s beauty range is full petrochemicals, synthetic colours, fragrances and preservatives, and in many of their products they use only tiny amounts of botanically-based ingredients. Most of their goods come in plastic tubs or containers, and most scarily of all, they irradiate certain products to kill microbes; obviously, radiation is generated from dangerous non-renewable uranium, which cannot be disposed of safely. Yipes! Better to stick with all natural beauty brands like Neom, Tilth or Burt’s Bees.
3. Vivienne Westwood
Her Climate Change Revolution calls on consumers to buy less, and links the capitalist economy to the destruction of the planet. She has created a line of bags manufactured in Africa to help empower women there, and designed eco-friendly uniforms for the staff of Virgin air.
These are all commendable activities, yet Dame Westwood has done very little that we could discover to make her own brands more eco-friendly. From Anglomania to Red Label, from men’s wear to accessories, her clothes are often made from petroleum byproducts and worse, PVC; she cannot guarantee her designs are not manufactured in sweatshops and or don’t contain toxic dyes. Rank-a-Brand even gives her the lowest possible score for environmental friendliness and transparency, yet loads of ‘ethical fashion’ magazines laud her for being a ‘sustainable brand,’ mainly because she is vocal about climate change.
To put this into perspective, Shell was a long-time sponsor of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and exhibition, with the aim of raising awareness of the threats faced by animals, plants and habitats–does that make them a ‘sustainable brand’?
4. Stella McCartney
Stella loves animals, make no mistake. As a proud PETA member, there’s no way you’re ever going to find leather or fur in any of her designs, ever. But…how does that make her line sustainable?
Take a look at anything–anything! on a rack right now with a Stella McCartney tag on it, and check the label. What’s it made of? Organic cotton? Silk? Cashmere? While her clothing may have some of the above in the blend, every single piece we checked at Le Bon Marche in Paris also contained polyester or nylon–and don’t even get us started on her plasticky ‘faux leathers‘.
If you check the Sustainability section of her website, there’s a lot of talk about how friendly she is to animals, then there’s a link to her ‘eco friendly’ products, but even these contain many non-Earth friendly materials. If you want biodegradable soles for shoes, why not just use cork, Stella? And as for those sunglasses made from ‘natural’ plastic, so energy-intensive to produce, why not just create them from sustainable, biodegradable wood?
The media doesn’t help matters: Stella is often lauded as being ‘the reigning queen of mainstream eco-fashion’. Elle Magazine, for example, says Stella ‘actively works to include organic, naturally sourced, and low-impact ingredients whenever possible’, ignoring the fact that if you really care about the environment, using such ingredients is always possible.
While Apple has the noble goal of fuelling its onsite energy entirely from renewable sources — solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal– Greenpeace has slammed Apple several times for not producing truly eco-friendly products.
For example, Greenpeace claims the iPhone 4 contains enough hazardous chemicals to affect the environment, and what’s more, Apple is the only phone maker who is still using these toxic chemicals, which include phthalate plasticisers, brominated compounds, lead, chromium and hazardous PVC.
This may come as a rude shock to all Apple’s iPhone lovers, because while he was alive, executive Steve Jobs often defended the company from attacks made by various environmental groups accusing the company of not being ‘green’ enough, and he even went as far as to say that Apple aimed to be an environmental leader.
But given that the company remains an industry giant based on strategies that include: having different sized chargers for each of its products (thus making reusing and sharing chargers between devices impossible); introducing ‘new, improved’ versions of more or less the same product each year, thus encouraging superflous, conspicuous consumption; and making it very difficult to repair small parts (like screens), meaning people often buy new instead of repairing, we’d say Apple is far the sustainable company they claim to be.
It’s all very well when companies donate money to charity. But let’s not forget that’s also a huge tax write off for them. When they highlight social or environmental problems, that’s a great service to society, but a bit dodgy is it’s also a company’s main marketing strategy, while they practice the same behaviour they preach against. If they implement some ‘green’ policies, that’s always welcome, but their overall strategy and eco-record has to be considered too.
Given that a handful of companies, many of which are featured in Eluxe, such as David Peck, Kowtow, and Fairphone are busting a gut trying to do all that, plus use green manufacturing techniques and materials, don’t you think we owe it to these good people to ‘out’ those brands that could do much better?