Are you one of the many people who believes that the global fashion industry is one of the
most polluting industries in the world? Even though there are no solid numbers on emissions
in the fashion industry, we can say that fashion is one of the most resource-intensive
industries in the world, both in terms of natural resources and human resources (Wicker,
2017). Fast fashion is exacerbating this problem: not only do we buy more, but also discard
more as a result (The World Bank, 2019).
As you may know, the driving force of climate change is the production of greenhouse
gasses, including carbon dioxide (Athenas, 2021). The enormous use of water, chemicals
and energy such as fuel and electricity in the supply chain leads to severe emission of
greenhouse gases. Added to the mammoth amount of waste generated, the industry is
causing an important impact on the environment.
Regarding the solutions, one of the first things to consider is sustainability across the supply
chain. In order to establish priorities of environmental aspects, detect risks and opportunities, propose solutions and a continuous improvement, we have to conduct a lifecycle analysis of the products. The collected data must be shared with customers and businesses, as an effort towards transparency. It is true that technology, research, regulations and political actions are crucial. Most people would generally point out the significant role of government, ONG and worldwide companies, but few would stress the role of grassroots.
There is no doubt that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent a relevant
percentage of the fashion industry. It is vital to recognise and support their work. One of their contributions can be to increase manufacturing efficiency, by implementing practices to save resources such as energy, water and raw materials. All these little efforts combined can lead to mammoth changes.
In addition, the local community is paramount to support a move towards the customer
behaviour by providing information through educators, campaigners, journalists and
academics. They can improve the way in which waste prevention actions are taken forward
and enhance, in this priority order, the re-use, recycling, recovery and disposal, with a high
level of resource efficiency. For example, encouraging people to buy second-hand clothing.
As regards indigenous people, they have a strong link to the surrounding natural resources
so we could learn from their methods which respect the environment at the same time they
fulfil their needs. One of the biggest differences with fast fashion is that these communities
fulfil a need, not a demand, so they produce less, never taking more than they need.
Technology and digital tools can be used to promote economic development and unleash
the potential for indigenous communities to compete in global markets. Prospects for the future will be grim unless we build a circular and low-carbon fashion industry system. To achieve this we have to include all parties involved in the matter, every stakeholder should work together to strengthen cooperation.
Alden Wicker. (2017). We have no idea how bad fashion actually is for the environment. Racked. https://www.racked.com/2017/3/15/14842476/fashion-climate-change-environment-pollution
How much do our wardrobes cost to the environment? The World Bank. (2019)
Why focus on climate change? Athenas. Accessed on 4 July 2021. https://athenas.ksu.edu/climate-change/why-focus-on-climate-change#professional-development-for-educators