Performative activism unconstructive, prevents progress in climate movement


Siri Surapaneni

Uniqlo, H&M, and Lululemon are just a few names of brands who are taking part in sustainability initiatives, but the sustainability initiatives are just for show. This is to align with the ongoing movement to reverse the effects of climate change and tackle the depletion of natural resources. As more and more people have been engaging in activism there has been an increase in companies to follow. Although this can be seen as a positive thing, this has inadvertently led to a rampant increase in performative activism hindering real activism from making an impact. Performative activism is activism that is not done because of one’s devotion to a particular cause but rather to increase a person’s social standing. With this comes an influx of individuals pretending to support this cause publicly and never doing anything away from social media.. 

            Specifically, companies like H&M are notorious for promoting eco-friendly products or lines in order to attract customers and to paint a falsified picture of their intentions. Many times consumers fall into the trap and purchase products thinking they are ethically sourced and made. While these brands gain traction, consumers are left tricked.

            The problem is when companies and even individuals promote environmentalism as a trend making the cause itself lose importance in the mix. Whether it be recycling, canceling fast fashion, the save-the-turtles movement or reducing plastic use companies and individuals capitalize and promote the cause for a short period of time then quickly forget about it.

           Anecdotally, I have witnessed some stores provide both trash cans and recycle bins, often throwing both cans in the trash bin. On an individual level, during the prime of the save the turtles movement people bought reusable straws and used them when it was trendy but weeks later resumed using plastic straws. The list goes on with fast fashion companies promoting their sustainable clothing options but the clothing pieces end up not much different from their unethical options.

             At the end of the day, corporations will continue to pretend to care about environmentalism to avoid being canceled and retain their customers. So, what can we do to hold companies accountable?

             To start, it is our job as consumers to not fall into these devious traps and carefully choose where we purchase our goods. There are many sustainable options that are available instead. It is important to not give business to these companies who pretend they care about creating sustainable products and rather to companies who truly do. It is as simple as that, if those companies do not get business then they will end up hurting the environment less and the attention can be turned over to organizations that are actually trying to create a difference.

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