During the month of September, Oxfam run a campaign encouraging people to shop second hand, donate, reuse, re-wear, and restyle. The initiative aims to educate those taking part on the fashion industry’s environmental impact and inspire them to reconsider the way they view their wardrobe without having to compromise on style.
The current production of garments has alarming impacts on the planet due to the high demand it puts on natural resources and land use, levels of water pollution from chemical use, reliance on high energy use and emission levels. According to the Geneva Environment Network, fashion production makes up 10% of worldwide carbon emissions. Additional research has shown that as much as 92 million tons of clothing ends up in landfill each year, and that textile and fashion waste account for 9% of annual microplastic ocean pollution. This is not only affecting the planet, but also people. The pollution from the production and disposal of garments poses severe health hazards for communities across the globe.
The high levels of production and disposal of garments are a result of modern-day conceptions of fashion and consumer desire to have the latest styles immediately at a low cost. With the fast fashion industry successfully rising to this challenge, it is easy to see how attitudes towards clothing have moved from quality to quantity over time.
This pursuit of fast, low-cost production has uncovered the human cost of our clothes as garment manufacturing has been mostly outsourced to countries with lower wages, which tend to also have weaker labour regulations and high rates of worker exploitation.
Sustainable shopping habits require a level of consciousness, moderation, and balance, calling for consumers to ‘buy less, choose well and make it last’ as put by the late Vivienne Westwood. While this mentality puts the onus on consumers to make better decisions, the responsibility equally sits with fashion brands.
Aside from it being the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense for companies to mitigate the impacts they have on the well-being of ecosystems and communities in which they operate. Failure to do so can result in lawsuits, reputational damage, missing out on investment and inability to recruit and retain talent.
So, what can and should companies in the garment sector be expected to do?
- Ensure compliance with legislation and standards – with the EU leading in this area and requirements taking social and environmental considerations into account, compliance will ensure that businesses set and respect minimum standards in their own operations and supply chains.
- Work towards circularity – given the impact that garment disposal is having on the planet and affected communities, it is crucial that companies think of creative solutions to close the loop.
- Prioritise transparency – with majority of emissions in the industry coming from scope 3, transparency and decarbonisation must be prioritised.
- Get the messaging right – sustainability efforts in the garment industry are heavily dependent on consumer education through communication, you cannot expect a customer to be on board if they do not have the information.
About Ardea International
At Ardea, we specialise in putting the law and international standards into practice. If you would like to hear more about how we can help you prepare for new and incoming legislation, embed more sustainable procurement practices into your business and operations, and guide you to self-sufficiency in this area, then get in touch with a member of the team today via email@example.com
If you found this blog insightful, we recommend that you check out our short series on the relationship between fast fashion demand and the growth of the human trafficking and modern slavery industry.
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