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Transparency in Apparel Means Telling the Truth

When young children lie, their parents punish them with timeout or no TV. But for German car giant Volkswagen, being less than truthful about its diesel emissions had far greater financial consequences—some analysts estimate the scandal will cost the company as much as 55 billion euros, or $60.9 billion.

“Don’t make a false claim,” stressed Dina Dunn, founder and chief executive of Blink, a marketing agency focused on spreading news of apparel brands’ sustainable initiatives. She was speaking Thursday during a panel discussion titled “The Era of Transparency” at Texworld USA in New York City. “Consumers are relying on the brand to do the right thing and as soon as you break that trust there are big problems.”

Karla Magruder, the founder and president of Fabrikology International who also spoke on the panel, agreed.

“Being truthful is really critical,” she echoed. “To me—and I think many people—being transparent is being truthful. I have a real belief in saying what you’re going to do, doing what you said and then repeating it.”

And if you’re going to use the “T” word, be careful. Look at the backlash H&M has received for trying to clean up the fast-fashion mess it played a big part in creating. Instead of being lauded for its in-store recycling program, raising wages or buying organic cotton, its efforts—and the annual report outlining them—are more or less slammed by sustainability pundits.

“It is a complex world out there and people make their life too difficult when they talk about transparency,” Macgruder added. “If you had to know every chemical that went into that garment most of us would pass out just trying to read the list! So when we talk about transparency, I love to equate it more to truthfulness.”