Two adverse news reports have thrown the 'sustainable fashion' world in turmoil, with both the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and Higg issuing statements denying charges that big brands have been using the cloak of opaqueness and secrecy and also the lack of credible data to greenwash themselves.
The latest came in the form of an article titled 'How Fashion Giants Recast Plastic as Good for the Planet' in the New York Times on 12 June which argued that "an influential system overseen by retailers and clothing makers ranks petroleum-based synthetics like “vegan leather” as more environmentally sound than natural fibres."
This followed close on the heels of a damning report in the Intercept on 3 June titled 'Industry-Linked Sustainability Standard Allows Clothing Giants to Ramp Up Emissions'. Its contention was as simple: "the index used to certify sustainability in New York’s Fashion Act is tied to apparel giants like Patagonia and Walmart."
Though the allegations were levelled at fashion giants, the SAC and the Higg Index find themselves in the eye of a storm for being the archangels of the 'sustainable fashion' ecosystem. The latter particularly has been under fire from critics for consistently downplaying natural fibres and instead promoting fossil fuel fashion (i.e polyster-driven fashion).
The Norwegian Consumer Authority recently wrote to outdoor brand Norrøna Sport arguing that the use of Higg Profiles appeared to break guidelines under Norway’s Marketing Control Act, which examines green claims made by businesses. In February, Portugal banned the use of “vegan leather” to describe leather-look products on the ground that the term was “misleading.”