“Green” Marketing in the Apparel Industry: The Spectrum of Veracity

Stephanie R. Keane, Colby College

Document Type Honors Thesis (Open Access)

Abstract

Apparel companies’ propensity for manipulation in their marketing of environmental initiatives contributes to immense environmental pollution from petrochemical textile material production. Public scrutiny pressures these businesses to adopt “green” initiatives to avoid losing devoted consumers. In some cases, these initiatives disguise the real operations of a company or claim benignity for the company when this is not the reality. Previous business ethics research analyzed the emergence of “greenwashing” in corporations and thus concluded that corporations market themselves as eco-friendly to portray commodification as sustainable. In the form of case studies, this paper scrutinizes four companies: Zara, Patagonia, Lululemon, and Pact. Through discourse and visual analyses on the social media platform, Instagram, from 2016 until 2021, and annual reports from 2016, 2018, and 2020, the paper analyzes how each company narrates its environmental consciousness. My findings indicate that Zara and Lululemon elicit consumer support through strategies of ambiguous discourse and nature visuals while Pact and Patagonia emphasize their third-party certifications and data substantiated results. In sum, this research brings awareness to marketing narratives of apparel companies in hopes of informing consumers that company claims may mask the true environmental effects of a company’s production processes.