From “sustainable” capsule collections to sneakers made from recycled plastic, companies in the apparel and accessories sector – and beyond – are keenly seeking to address growing consumer sentiment around the need to consume more consciously. Rising consumer and investor awareness of the environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) elements of businesses at all levels is helping to drive a booming sustainability market that was expected to reach 150 billion by 2021, according to KPMG, with fashion playing a significant role, as “sustainability” continues to be “a key pillar of business growth” regardless of the sector.
The result of the global increase in the number of companies recognizing the power of sustainability when it comes to attracting consumers and investors can be seen in dedicated marketing campaigns and specific “green” products, such collections that promote recycled and alternative fabrics, as well as the dramatic growth in the frequency with which companies make ESG-related claims in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and related entities. In a paper published last year, academics Alessandro Fenili and Carlo Raimondo found that the number of times companies used ESG-related words in their pre-IPO S-1 forms rose between 2012 and 2019, and is expected to increase. especially since their valuations have been positively impacted by such emphasis.
But that’s not all; the results of the apparent benefits companies can derive from positioning themselves and their products as ‘sustainable’ also come in the form of companies’ approach to branding. Specifically, a growing number of companies in the luxury sector, in particular, are offering sustainability-focused offerings with specific logos to alert consumers to the nature of the products at stake.
As TFL first reported last year, brands that suggest elements of sustainability, such as recycling, appear to be gaining traction. Prada has adopted (and filed applications for) a trademark that consists of the word Re-Prada with a stylized version of its triangular logo for use as part of its drive to use recycled nylon – or Econyl, a proprietary material made from recycled industrial materials. nylon waste such as fishing nets and carpets. The brand has since introduced a similar logo that uses the words Prada and Re-Nylon with the same arrow-infused triangle, which can be seen on launch materials for Prada’s latest collection with adidas – and in many cases , on the clothes. , themselves (and could very well come to the metaverse through the parties’ recently announced “open, user-generated metaverse NFT project”).
Not the only luxury brand to try sustainability in its brands, Louis Vuitton has also adopted – and filed for – a trademark that consists of two twisting arrows that distinguish the letters “LV” for use on sneakers. “upcycled” created by the late Virgil Abloh. Meanwhile, from November and as part of a collaboration with Palm Angels, select Moncler products carry a recycling-focused logo to indicate that down jackets, shirts and vests have been made “from fabrics made from low-impact materials such as Econyl® – a regenerated nylon derived from ocean and land waste – organic cotton and recycled polyester, and buttons and zippers are made with recycled metal and brass.
And yet, in January, Valentino launched new versions of its Open and Rockstud Untitled sneaker styles, which “are redesigned and dedicated in the spirit of open innovation with a more conscious ethos.” Specifically, the Italian brand states that the sneakers were born out of its “desire to explore innovative materials and techniques for the future”, and therefore, “partially involve recycled and bio-based materials while continuing to reflect the aesthetic motifs and emblematic of the House”. .” The trainers are finished with branding that plays off the house’s signature “V” logo but adds small green arrows into the mix.
While these logos – which are clearly aimed at communicating elements of sustainability or ESG – may trade gold in today’s market, brands should be careful as the wave of attempts by consumer-facing companies to bolstering their results through ESG messaging has led to evidence that regulators are paying increasing attention to this space. As the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority, for example, recently revealed, it has officially launched a compliance review of environmental marketing claims (and potential greenwashing) in the fashion/ retail. This effort is unlikely to be limited to explicit claims about product sustainability credentials, but will also likely consider logos, and therefore require companies to substantiate sustainability-focused claims related to such branding in order to avoid accusations of greenwashing.
Meanwhile, watchdogs are also paying attention, as indicated by NAD’s recent investigation into Everlane’s “no new plastic” marketing, and an investigation into an adidas ad in France that touts Stan sneakers. Smith recycled brand. In the latter case, the French advertising ethics jury (“AEJ”) drew attention to adidas’ use of an “End plastic waste” logo, accompanied by the slogan “Let’s put an end to plastic waste “. The French watchdog claimed that the mere fact that adidas retains trademark rights to the logo (i.e. simply because the logo acts as an indicator of the source of the shoes with which it is used , namely the adidas brand), does not mean that the company is not bound by advertising rules, namely the prohibition of misleading advertisements and the need to substantiate sustainability claims.
According to the advertising agency, “It should be recalled from the outset that the mere fact that it is a registered trademark does not exempt the advertisements which use it from the obligation to respect the ethical rules in force, nor deprive the Jury of the possibility of finding a violation due to its use. Regarding the use of the logo by adidas, “which evokes the planet Earth [and thus,] suggests that the company is committed to a move to end plastic waste”, the AEJ argues that while the plastic used to make the sneakers is made from abandoned plastic waste, “there is no denying that this does not mean plastic recyclable”.
Brands should keep this in mind and pay increasing attention to ESG marketing and disclosures when choosing to adopt sustainability-focused logos. They should also note the increase in lawsuits filed against companies in relation to sweeping and/or vague claims, which may have been considered non-actionable claims in the past, but are increasingly being scrutinized. , which could remove the possibility for companies to drop inventory and false advertisements in the process.