People are turning their backs on clothing brands that are intentionally misleading them about the organic content of their products, according to a new poll.
In the survey of 2,000 people across the UK, two thirds (70%) said that if they found out a brand was falsely claiming their products were organic, they would be less likely to purchase that brand in the future.
The poll, run as part of Organic Textile Week from 15 to 21 May, also revealed that 59% said they were “angry” or “disgusted” to find out that some of the clothing brands claiming to be organic may actually contain hazardous synthetic pesticides and other chemicals.
It was important for almost three in five people (57%) that the clothes and textiles they bought were genuinely sustainable. Consumers were not interested in buying from companies who engaged in “greenwashing” – making false or misleading claims to exaggerate their sustainability efforts.
On the flip side, over three-quarters of respondents were unsure or unclear of what certified organic textiles actually meant and nearly a third of Britons did not know organic textiles or clothing even existed (29%).
Over half (56%) did not know how to recognise whether or not an item of clothing or textiles was certified organic or not, such as looking to see if it had a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) logo.
The first UK Organic Textile Week has been launched by Organic UK, the Organic Trade Board (OTB), in partnership with GOTS with the goal of raising awareness and educating consumers.
It has brought together brands from clothing, childrenswear, personal care and home textiles such as People Tree, Natracare, Bamford, My Little Green Wardrobe, Greenfibres, de Le Cuona and Organ(y)c to celebrate and promote certified organic textiles while informing consumers about how to identify truly organic options.
Cristina Dimetto, CEO of the OTB, said: “For the first time in OTB history, we are launching an organic textile awareness week to raise awareness, contribute to consumers’ understanding and ultimately to fight greenwashing in textiles, including everything from clothing and childrenswear to house textiles and personal care. Our ambition is to make organic a conscious choice and not just a purchase.
“Every certified organic textile purchase makes a huge positive difference to ourselves, people and our planet. The partnership with GOTS reinforces the OTB commitment to bring the whole organic industry together, and to grow awareness and sales for organic in all its sectors.”
Currently, organic food is a legally protected definition but this is not the case for textiles. The poll revealed that 70% of respondents thought it should be a legal requirement for clothing brands to adhere to a clear organic textile processing standard to be able to display the word “organic” on their products. This would help consumers spot any greenwashing.
Textiles labelled “organic” are based on organic natural fibres, grown on organic farms without the use of chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers. Processing according to GOTS means that strict environmental and social standards apply. Organic textiles processed to GOTS are independently certified by GOTS approved certification bodies.
While most of the organic fibres produced worldwide are cotton, consumers may not be aware that hemp and linen are alternative sustainable crops which use less water than cotton. With this in mind, 54% of the poll’s respondents said they would actively look to buy more organic hemp and linen clothing products certified to GOTS.