Are you unknowingly causing a climate emergency?
As planetary pressures mount, the fashion industry is facing increasing exposure to its systemic issues. Tackling the risks of the fashion industry on our planet is so monumental that it would require worldwide action. In fact, if worldwide action isn’t taken, the fashion industry could use ‘a quarter of the world’s remaining global carbon budget to keep warming under 2ºC by 2050 and use 35% more land to produce fibres by 2030.’
The pace at which the key faces of fashion are now running at, is scarily unsustainable. ‘Over the past 15 years, clothing production has doubled, while the length of time we wear these clothes has fallen by nearly 40%! With production becoming faster, clothes are becoming cheaper and these falling prices have seen people buying more clothing than ever before. Fast fashion is engineered to fit in with our busy, and seemingly disposable lives. The low prices as described, invite low maintenance; by that we mean, if it doesn’t look right, or you wear it once and never again, there’s no monetary repent. The pressure to continually purchase fast fashion is exacerbated by the influencers that promote them, and the algorithms that then push those promotions further up your news feeds. The combination of aggressive marketing, fast production, cheap prices and clever algorithms makes fast fashion borderline impossible to ignore. Shein, the business at the absolute forefront of throwaway fashion, ‘overtook Amazon as the most downloaded shopping app in the US last year’. This seems somewhat a paradox to the pledges being made worldwide to try and save our planets climate emergency.
A race to the bottom
One might argue that it’s unfair to shun a model which provides cheaper clothing, making it more accessible to those with lower incomes. However, the biggest customer base of ultra-fast fashion is people with substantial disposable incomes! Speaking of income, fashion is one of the most labour-dependant industries, because each garment must be handmade along a lengthy supply chain. Fashion brands are in a race to the bottom to find the cheapest labour in order to keep production costs down as mentioned above, which hosts a whole realm of issues around workers’ rights. An Oxfam 2019 report found that 0% of Bangladeshi garment workers and 1% of Vietnamese garment workers earned a living wage. Often, women start their daughters working in the factory as young as age ten to help feed their family because one wage is inadequate. Being trapped in this cycle makes women increasingly more susceptible to sexual abuse because they can’t risk the loss of income by reporting misconduct, with 1 in 4 Bangladeshi garment workers disclosing some form of abuse to Oxfam.
Buying clothes that are made to last
It seems the only valid answer is to boycott the fashion entirely, and that’s not far from the truth. To make our wardrobes sustainable, we’d have to each cut how many clothes we buy by as much as 75%, buy clothes designed to last, as well as recycling the ones that we no longer want. Serious conversations need to be had, not just within the industry itself, but with consumers, and governments too, about limiting resource use, fair workers’ rights, and how much clothing is enough. Shifting to a sustainable approach will not come with ease, but this amount of industry growth simply cannot last. Next time you’re buying a top specific to one occasion, ask yourself whether you really need it or is it fulfilling a fad that will be replaced by the next in a few weeks’ time. Are you comfortable with the ethics of the brands you buy from? Do you need to shift your fashion behaviour towards a wardrobe that’s good for the planet rather than contributing to the tidal wave of material, energy, and labour exploitation?
At eco-shaper, we drive action on climate change and streamline carbon footprinting. For example, we can help calculate emissions across the entire ecosystem that companies work across and produce automated reporting based on outcomes. It’s like Xero, for sustainability. Contact us to be part of our research group on