Greenwashing has become an increasingly common issue in various sectors, and education is no exception. In this article, we explore the concept of greenwashing in education. We particularly look at school uniforms, and suggest how to identify and combat this issue.
Understanding Greenwashing in Education
Greenwashing is when an organisation appears to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes but does not make any significant efforts towards sustainability. In education, greenwashing often involves schools promoting superficial eco-initiatives, while neglecting other areas with a more significant impact on the environment.
For example, some schools may pledge to become Net Zero by a certain year or claim to incorporate eco-literacy into their curriculum but remain vague on how they intend to achieve these goals. Such schools may not be making any real effort to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Quality Education and Responsible Consumption and Production.
Greenwashing School Uniforms
Greenwashing in school uniforms is a clear example of this issue. Some schools claim to prioritise sustainability yet continue to sign multi-year contracts with uniform suppliers producing oil-derived synthetic fibres that contribute to climate change. This practice directly contradicts their purported commitment to sustainability.
Kapes is a company that offers a solution to this issue by providing eco-friendly school uniforms made from sustainable materials. Not only do they promote environmental responsibility, but they also give a free uniform to a child in need in Africa for every uniform sold.
How to Identify Greenwashing in Education
To detect greenwashing in education, look for:
- Vague or meaningless language in marketing messages that isn’t backed up by evidence or certifications.
- A lack of strategy or policy ensuring that sustainability is a key part of the decision-making process.
- Schools promoting green initiatives while doing little to reduce their impact in other areas where they could make a difference.
Combating Greenwashing in Education
To avoid greenwashing, schools should:
Transparency is crucial in avoiding greenwashing. Schools should reflect on the messages they communicate and the methods used to appear more environmentally conscious. They should resist exaggerating their eco-achievements and be honest about their weaknesses and successes.
Provide Measurable Information
Instead of using catchphrases like “green” and “eco-conscious,” schools should share specific, measurable information supported by facts and data. This helps build trust and ensures that their core message is authentic.
Correct Errors and Be Accountable
If a school has engaged in greenwashing in the past, it should take responsibility for its actions and correct any errors. This demonstrates a genuine commitment to sustainability and fosters trust within the school community.
Develop a Clear Sustainability Strategy
To genuinely embrace sustainability, schools should develop a clear SDG strategy with specific guidelines and procurement policies that include sustainability as a key metric. This ensures that sustainability is integrated across all aspects of the school’s operations and decision-making process.
Benchmark Your School Uniform’s Sustainability
Ready to assess the sustainability of your school uniforms? Take our E.A.R.T.H School Uniform Sustainability Scorecard and discover how your school scores in 5 key areas. In under 3 minutes, you’ll answer 20 quick-fire questions about your uniform, helping you identify opportunities for improvement.
What is greenwashing in education?
Greenwashing in education occurs when a school appears to be environmentally conscious by promoting eco-initiatives but fails to take meaningful action in other areas, often for marketing purposes.
How can we identify greenwashing in education?
Look for vague language in marketing messages, a lack of strategy or policy ensuring sustainability, and schools promoting green initiatives without making a real effort to reduce their environmental impact in other areas.
How can schools combat greenwashing?
Schools can combat greenwashing by being transparent, providing measurable information, correcting errors and being accountable, and developing a clear sustainability strategy.