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H&M’s sustainability efforts slammed by regulators, labeled “greenwashing” in latest PR disaster



As fashion brands continue to engage in sustainability efforts, scrutiny from environmentally-conscious consumers has also increased. When Burberry announced an unexpected commitment to environmental sustainability, the public was skeptical. People were quick to point out the company incinerated over $38 million in goods less than a year ago. It’s pretty difficult to get away with greenwashing these days. H&M was no exception. The media slammed the company for promoting its Conscious collection with little indication of how it was more sustainable.

H&M’s Conscious Collection

The only information in the public domain about H&M’s Conscious collection is this snippet from its website:

“Our Conscious products contain at least 50% recycled materials, organic materials or TENCEL TM Lyocell material – in fact many contain 100%. Due to technological limitations to ensure product quality and durability there is one exception – the maximum share of recycled cotton we can currently use in a garment is 20%. We are however, working with new innovations to increase this share as soon possible.”

Journalist Katherine Martinko called the description “a joke” and “a prime example of greenwashing.”

But it’s not just media and journalists that aren’t buying H&M sustainability efforts — it’s regulators too.

Regulators Slam H&M

In Norway, an independent governing body called the Consumer Authority (CA) enforces the Marketing Control Act, designed to prevent marketers from misleading customers. Reportedly, the CA is investigating H&M over its sustainability claims related to Conscious.

H&M's Conscious line being investigated for its sustainability claim. Image Credits: H&M
H&M’s Conscious line being investigated for its sustainability claim. Image Credits: H&M

More explicitly, the deputy director general at the CA told Quartz:

“Since H&M are not giving the consumer precise information about why these clothes are labeled Conscious, we conclude that consumers are being given the impression that these products are more ‘sustainable’ than they actually are.”

But these are just suspicions — that’s not enough for the CA to impose fines or sanctions on the company. Apparently, H&M will speak to the CA and “see how [H&M] can be even better at communicating the extensive work” it does, according to company statements.


At the time of this writing, there has been no conclusive evidence that H&M broke any marketing laws. However, the PR snafu that came as a result of H&M’s lack of transparency should be a lesson learned. That is, consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever before and companies can rarely get away with greenwashing anymore.


Amazon Prime is convenient, but it’s terrible for the environment



This past Tuesday was Amazon Prime Day, a sale that gives Prime members huge discounts across a variety of items on the site. Unsurprisingly, customers bought — and they bought a lot too. Inc reported that 100 million Prime members purchased over 175 million items site-wide during the Prime day sales, numbers that have Black Friday and Cyber Monday beat.

Though sales like Amazon’s Prime Day are appealing to consumers, the concern regarding how large-scale sales like it impact the environment. An argument can be made for the idea that online shopping is less detrimental to the environment than traditional retail, but this is often untrue.

Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping is highly convenient to consumers, but don’t overlook how the service impacts the environment.

Shopping Online With Amazon Prime Not Necessarily More Sustainable Than Driving to the Store

It is true that shopping online yields a smaller carbon footprint for consumers, comparative to driving to the store in what MIT dubbs “traditional shopping.” However, that’s only true when the consumer doesn’t get rushed delivery, according to Vox.

The idea is that as consumers pile up on rushed delivery, there is an influx of delivery trucks on the road. UC Davis Assistant Professor Miguel Jaller, who studies sustainable transportation systems, corroborated this idea:

“Because some [companies] are offering really fast and rushed deliveries, that disintegrates the consolidation. Every individual is buying more and wanting those goods to be at their home really fast. That creates more vehicles, more traffic, and potentially more emissions.”

The environmental cost of Amazon’s two-day shipping. Credits: Vox Media

But beyond the influx of traffic, the emissions advantage for online shopping has a smaller window than you might think. Specifically, Jaller found that if delivery vans make less than about six stops on a trip, the emissions advantage disappears. And even with more stops per trip, there is potentially still more nitrogen oxide emitted.

Amazon Prime Day Adds to the Problem, Increasing Emissions

Prime Day only adds to the environmental damage, as hundreds of millions of customers order simultaneously and expect two-day delivery. The problem is so many consumers order individual items instead of consolidating. Consolidating products and having them delivered on one route rather than separate items to various addresses reduces the number of miles required for delivery.

UPS disclosed in 2017 that the boom in online shopping has decreased the number of packages dropped off per mile, leading to more trucks on the road, and therefore higher greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, carbon emissions can be as much as 35 times greater than they would be with a one delivery drip than for a fully-loaded delivery. 

Carbon emissions can be as much as 35 times greater than they would be with a one delivery drip than for a fully-loaded delivery. Amazon Prime exacerbates the problem.
Carbon emissions can be as much as 35 times greater than they would be with a one delivery drip than for a fully-loaded delivery. Amazon Prime exacerbates the problem.

“The time in transit has a direct relationship to the environmental impact,” according to Patrick Browne, director of global sustainability at UPS. “I don’t think the average consumer understand the environmental impact of having something tomorrow vs. two days from now. The more time you give me, the more efficient I can be.”

Amazon Claims to Commit to Environmental Sustainability. People Call Bluff.

With Amazon being the market leader, it has a responsibility to minimize its negative impacts on the environment. The company has pledged to work towards sustainability. It announced a plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions on its deliveries by 2030 and share its carbon footprint numbers later this year. But people are unconvinced.

Employees have pointed out that the Amazon board rejected a motion to pass a climate proposal. Amazon filed to withhold its emissions numbers in Australia under the guise of protecting company trade secrets. The company has also turned its back on a commitment to double down on renewable energy.

Altogether, Amazon’s actions have led consumers to believe the company has something to hide.


As the need for companies to deliver quickly, getting to net-zero carbon emissions will be a tough task. Even for Amazon.

On the consumer side, time utility is valuable, so free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime is the go-to. For Amazon competitors, it’s a difficult perk to match. (Look no further than eBay.)

No doubt, Amazon will continue to improve its logistics. Perhaps one day the gold standard will be free one-day delivery — who knows. But consumers should most certainly consider the environmental tradeoffs.

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McDonald’s gets called out for plastic pollution. Will it actually change?



While McDonald’s celebrated the 40th anniversary of its Happy Meal, two girls from Southampton England were busy drafting a petition. Caitlin and Ella, 7 and 9 years old respectively, urged the fast-food chain to stop giving out plastic toys. They vocalized their thoughts through a petition, saying: 

“We like to go eat at Burger King and McDonald’s, but children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea. We want anything they give us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations … It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all.” 

As of the time of this writing, the petition has garnered over 391,000 signatures, with a goal of reaching 500,000. The virality of the petition and a feature on “War on Plastics” practically forced a response from McDonald’s.

McDonald’s Pledges to Act

In response, McDonald’s has pledged to be more sustainable in the coming year. The company announced it would reduce the number of plastic toys given out by 60% in the next six months (in the UK).

Though McDonald’s has issued a public apology to Caitlin and Ella, it has made no promises about a plastic reduction in the United States or any other country for that matter—but it’s also not like McDonald’s hasn’t made promises before.

McDonald’s Sustainability Record

McDonald’s has set sustainability targets in the past. Just last November it announced it would strive to achieve 100% sustainable consumer packaging and recycling by 2025. As a part of this plan, McDonald’s phased out all harmful foam packaging by the end of 2018.

McDonald’s executive Francesca DeBiase said this environmental shift was largely due to consumers’ desire for businesses to take environmental responsibility.

“Our customers have told us that packaging waste is the top environmental issue they would like us to address,” DeBiase said. “Our ambition is to make change our customers want and to use less packaging, sourced responsibly and designed to be taken care of after use.” 

Clearly, businesses do care about what customers have to say, particularly if their financial bottom line depends on it.

However, the company’s track record is far from clean either. The sheer amount of food McDonald’s sells produce a staggering amount of waste. To be precise, McDonald’s produces 1.5 millions tons of waste annually. Given this, many believe the company still has a long way to go.

McDonald’s Tackles Climate, Energy Efficiency, and Health Concerns

Last year, McDonald’s committed to climate initiatives that will significantly reduce greenhouse gases in the next 11 years. Along with packaging, the company will also be aiming for more sustainable beef production. It would accomplish this by changing how cattle are fed and which soil farmers use.

The fast-food giant also has a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions drastically. McDonald’s plans to switch to more energy efficient kitchen appliances, such as LED light bulbs. In fact, just those three targeted areas collectively account for roughly 64% of McDonald’s emissions

By implementing these changes, the establishment expects to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by some 36%, equivalent to 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.

Coupled with these new proposals for change, McDonald’s also hopes to achieve more sustainability in health. It wants to do so by:

  • Eliminating artificial preservatives from their American burger menu.
  • Source more than 730 million cage-free eggs in 2019.
  • Increase the majority of sustainably sourced McCafe coffee in the United States.

Is this a case of greenwashing?

Despite this rollout of green initiatives, many critics are skeptical. Many accuse McDonald’s of greenwashing or manipulating customers by painting itself as more sustainable and ethical than it actually is.

Since 1997, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has dubbed the company “McCruelty” for their treatment of animals. Disturbing videos depicting cows and chickens being brutally slaughtered for the restaurant continue to surface on the internet. While McDonald’s committed to employing less cruel slaughtering methods for chickens, the method will not go into effect until 2024.

Chrissie Hynde of the rock band The Pretenders has actively sided with PETA in its fight for improved animal welfare. While she recognized McDonald’s new pledge as a step in the right direction, she didn’t praise its efforts.

Millions of birds are scalded alive for the production of McDonald's signature McNuggets.
Millions of birds are scalded alive for the production of McDonald’s signature McNuggets.

“McDonald’s pledge will help reduce some horrific suffering, but millions of birds will still be scalded alive for McNuggets until the policy takes effect in 2024, and the company still raises chickens with crippled legs and deformities,” Hynde said. “Other chains have enacted much stronger protections already and have broadened their base by offering vegan options.”

Also, because McDonald’s is one of the leading buyers of beef in the world, many believe the company’s new beef sustainability initiative won’t be enough to significantly reduce environmental damage.

Many experts say meat consumption heavily exacerbates effects of climate change due to livestock emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases.


As one of the world’s largest fast food chains in the world with 37,000 restaurants in 120 markets, McDonald’s needs to be accountable for its environmental impact.

Consumers have caught onto where McDonald’s currently stands, as the fast-food conglomerate contributes to the emissions problem and feeds plastic pollution. Now, the company has pledged to act and appears to get the cue.

Still, promises are easy, and the fast-food giant has made a lot of them already. The important assessment will be evaluating whether the company will actually be able to achieve its targets. Companies like Starbucks, while having a similar dedication to reducing their environmental impact, have missed sustainability targets repeatedly. Will McDonald’s be the same?

Only time will tell.

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Adidas nails sustainability again with two new projects



Adidas has a history of sustainability wins. On multiple occasions, it has received accolades for its sustainability efforts. Recently, it even debuted a new shoe — not just any shoe though: one that’s 100% recyclable. Even after this revolutionary feat, it appears Adidas is only continuing to strengthen its push for greener products.

In a continued effort to tackle product waste, Adidas recently launched two sustainable high-performance wear prototypes in collaboration with designer Stella McCartney. The brand new apparel includes the first ever mass-produced garment using innovative technology to repurpose old cotton into new material. 

Adidas Releases a Recyclable Hoodie

The first unveiled piece is a 100% recyclable hoodie, the first of its kind. Made of garment waste, 60% NuCyclTM, and 40% organic cotton diverted from landfills, the Infinite hoodie is unique and eco-friendly. Textile innovations company Evrnu, which pioneered the NuCyclTM technology, partnered with Adidas to make the hoodie.

According to Evrnu, the process involves transforming old, discarded clothing into raw materials used to create new, premium-quality clothing. Due to the product’s sustainable engineering, the hoodie is fully recyclable and can be remade into new high-performance apparel. 

Adidas Releases a Biodegradable Tennis Dress

The second product, a tennis dress made from MicrosilkTM and cellulose blended yarn, is also the first of its kind. Made of MicrosilkTM, a protein-based material comprised of renewable ingredients such as water, sugar, and yeast, the dress is completely biodegradable.

Bolt Threads, a company dedicated to finding alternative, eco-friendly fibers and fabrics through bioengineering, played a joint role in making the Biofabric Tennis Dress.

The Adidas – McCartney Collaboration Goes Way Back 

In an Adidas press release, the company stated this push for a greener fashion industry acts as a response to the roughly 92 million tons of textile waste produced annually. McCartney, having a long history of using sustainable materials, labels the fashion industry as among the most environmentally harmful. She also said stalling research for alternative, sustainable materials is no longer an option. 

Since 2005, Adidas and McCartney have proven a groundbreaking team in attaining sustainability in fashion. Last year, the two partnered for a women’s activewear line made entirely of recycled materials. Specifically, Adidas used plastic found in oceans and organic cotton to manufacture the clothes in the line.

“By creating a truly open approach to solving the problem of textile waste, we can help empower the industry at large to bring more sustainable practices into reality,” McCartney said. “With Adidas by Stella McCartney, we’re creating high-performance products that also safeguard the future of the planet.”


With Adidas taking major steps to champion sustainability, it may encourage more popular brand names to do the same. To achieve a more sustainable fashion industry, it will undoubtedly require more companies to rethink the way they create products. Recently, Burberry made an unexpected commitment, while H&M was slammed for “greenwashing,” or misleading consumers about the extent in which the company practices sustainability, if they do at all.

Adidas has come out with sustainable apparel without compromising for style.
Adidas has come out with sustainable apparel without compromising for style.

Regardless, what Adidas has shown is that it is possible to create sustainable apparel without compromising for style. If more businesses in fashion industry make a similar shift, it would have profound positive implications for the environment.

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