The emergence of the fast fashion business model has increased the introduction of trends leading to premature product high-street-shopping-1-537x402replacement and fashion obsolescence. This business model not only increases the environmental impacts but also creates a bigger problem with the issues surrounding disposal of the vast amounts of textile waste that are generated.

There are significant issues with apparel waste as the majority of clothing and textile waste ends up in landfills as opposed to being recycled or re-used (Allwood et al.  Madsen Fletcher) According to The Centre for Sustainable Fashion,designers are becoming more aware of and rethinking their role in creating sustainable fashion but finding it difficult to work within a sustainable framework. This could be due to a lack of a systems approach and technology software tools to help the apparel industry track supply chain, quality control as well as all aspects related to environmental performance.

Global fashion brands have armed themselves with tools to provide them with basis for decision-making such as real time supply chain and quality control visibility to track all processes. In addition to this, major brands utilize Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) a tool that evaluates from cradle to grave taking into account the entire process from raw materials, production, assembly, packaging, transportation, use and disposal.  All of these tools are helping in greening of the business.

To further develop and implement a green strategy, many brands are also instituting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). To meet the challenge, increased transparency and efficiency in supply chain and quality control management as well as the engagement of stakeholders in various ways, are critical to meet environmental and government regulations. Many companies use CSR reports to communicate their green actions. For example, in 2008, Levi’s undertook a broad initiative in the hope that ‘key stakeholders could be informed about how their business decisions impact the environmental attributes of the products they design, merchandise and sell. Levi’s program seeks to create awareness among consumers and engage them in the decision-making process by publishing LCAs for an increasing number of items in their product line.  Similarly, Gap has instituted a broad-based CSR framework in its operations (Gap Inc. 2011).

CALL TO ACTION – GREENPEACE’S DETOX MY FASHION CAMPAIGN

The apparel industry is being forced to not just make green a phase. The forces of change come from the large brands forcing suppliers to provide them with pollution reports. Empowerment is the end result of these types of action for communities and the news media since they are able to take action when factories are not keeping their promises to detoxing.

There are 18 companies that constitute 10% of the global retail industry as reported in the Business of Fashion (BOF) that have begun to eliminate toxic chemicals from their supply chains as part of Greenpeace’s Detox My Fashion campaign and this is having a ripple effect across the global supply chain. Second to oil, fashion and textiles is the most polluting industry in the world. Every stage in a garment’s life threatens our planet and its resources. It can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans. Up to 8,000 different chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes, including a range of dyeing and finishing processes.

This is a call to action from various points:

  1. Responding to consumer demand for green, ethical, or eco products
  2. Pressure to offer competitive products where others are having success or threatening market share with CST(Cell Signaling Technology) promotions
  3. Public demands for industry response
  4. Government regulations
  5. Cost reductions

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO CHANGE AND MAKE IT SUSTAINABLE?

The first step is transparency.  In general, the fashion industry has not been very transparent due to the fact that transparency requires quite a bit of effort and the knowledge requirements of really knowing where all of the raw materials are coming from.  So in order to be able to improve the fashion industry’s environmental impact, companies have to invest large sums of money in tracking.  There are brands like H&M, Nike, Zara, Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, Inditex, owner of Zara, and a few others that have made the investment and the commitment to improve since they are aware of the impact to the environment by from the fashion industry.

Waste—and the unsustainability of the supply chain— as indicated in the article by Fast Coexist,

is a problem endemic to the entire apparel industry, but especially interesting in the context of fast fashion. If clothing was fully recyclable, and made with the fewest resources possible, could we keep churning out new clothing at the frenetic pace of a fast fashion company like Zara, which makes more than 1 million garments every day, in a way that was actually sustainable?

It isn’t the big brands that are trying to tackle the sustainability issue but the smaller brands are actually making a larger impact. According to Rachel Kibbe, leader of the social media campaign, the smaller independent brands have their sustainable production models built into their DNA. And unlike more established brands, they do not have to undo their global production systems, or convince investors that money must be spent to re-make the system that has made them wealthy.

Ultimately, the consumer will continue to look for the brands that are proving they are following through with their green strategy regardless of whether the brand is big or small.  The consumer has more power now than ever to buy clothes from those brands that are actually proving to them that they are sustaining the change to more ecofriendly manufacturing processes and alienate those that are not willing or able to comply with the consumer demand for green. After all Green is the new Black!

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