Fashion Industry Sustainability Issue: The Hidden Ugly Side of the Fashion Industry.
The fashion industry is a huge industry and it is only getting bigger.
The global apparel industry alone is worth over 1.5 trillion dollars and accounts for 2% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, this glitz and glamour-filled industry account for 10% of the global carbon emissions and a huge amount of landfill. This is why it is referred to as “the second most polluter of the earth”, second only to oil.
The pollution/sustainability issue resulting from the fashion industry starts from the beginning of the production process down to distribution. According to The Quantis International 2018 Report, the three main drivers of the industry’s global pollution are dyeing and finishing (36%), yarn preparation (28%) and fibre production (15%). Moreso, the negative effect of the fashion industry also extends into social and economic areas as well.
Fast fashion companies outsource their clothing to factories in Asia which are usually in a state that best describes them as “sweat-shops” – there are far more numbers of persons stuffed in space for far less in these factories. These factories are the best choice for these fast fashion companies because the cost of production is very cheap, allowing for a fairly sizeable amount of margin on the clothes after they are cheaply sold.
In this sweatshops, the workers are paid far below the minimum wage, usually
with no work or health insurance; health and safety are far from the top
concerns of the owners, making a profit is.
Have you ever wondered how you were able to buy brand new socks and a pair of jean trousers for less than $1.5 and $5 each (equivalent in Naira)? If not, the truth is that you play a huge role in the problem.
The most notable event that exposed this “ugly” side of the fashion industry
was the “Rana Plaza” disaster that happened in Bangladesh in 2013, which claimed the lives of approximately 1,130 people when the building they were working in collapsed. The workers were packed up in the building making cheap clothing for Western fashion brands under very deplorable working
Although some measures have been put in place in Bangladesh and a few parts of the world to prevent such disasters from happening in the future. These measures include: Training and empowering of workers; Adoption of agreement standards which has had brands and non-profits pour millions of dollars into safety improvement efforts, etc. Sadly, these measures however amazing they might be only solved just a piece of the problem.
The Way Forward
In tackling this behemoth of a problem, we need to honestly recognize the
fact that the consumers/buyers have a large role to play.
To win in the fight to make fashion sustainable, consumers/people need to make sustainable choices. We need to make sustainable choices about the clothing we choose to buy or/and wear. In short, we need to start showing concerns by asking questions like, “where were our clothes gotten from?”; “How were they made?”; “How much and what chemicals went into their production?”; “Which of them are harmful?”
Are the clothing companies taking proper care of their workers or even
showing concerns about the health and safety of their workers?
It is only until the consumers ask these questions and seek answers to them that we truly will have considerable success in the fight against the sustainability issue in the fashion industry. It is only then that we can have good advances towards a sustainable fashion.