With ever-changing trends, the fashion industry has a Global retail value of $2 trillion, and it brings Ireland 780m in Revenues. However, the demand for ethical fashion is stronger, now than ever. On Sunday, July 05, 2020, Boohoo, owner of brands such as Nastygal, MissPap, and Pretty Little Thing, found itself in hot water. An undercover Sunday Time Investigator claimed of Modern-day slavery and unsafe working conditions in a UK facility. The undercover reporter spent two days working in the factory where he was told to expect £3.50 an hour and documented the lack of Covid-19 control measures being implemented.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated issue; the Fast Fashion Industry has a major ethical and sustainable impact. In recent years, documentaries, like Netflix’s The True Cost, have brought awareness to the effect the industry has had on developing countries. Issues like child labour, unsafe work conditions, low wages, and environmental damage are common and continue to worsen, as the demand for “disposable clothing” rises.
As consumers, it is essential to educate ourselves on ethical fashion, and in a time where social media is so prevalent, we must know the brands we promote. Before sharing information with the masses, it is our responsibility to investigates and ensure we can stand by the products we recommend.
The following four factors are the significant sustainable challenges in fashion, something each of us should consider when choosing the fashion brands, we opt to support
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has defined Child Labour as – “Conventions that damage children’s health, threaten their education, and lead to further exploitation and abuse.
According to the ILO, in 2016, there were approximately 152 million child laborers in the world. Almost half of them, 73 million, was reported to be working in hazardous conditions,
In developing countries, children are made to work in dangerous situations due to poverty and lack of policy and enforcement. The SOMO report issued in 2014 found that in the spinning mills it investigated in India, 60% of the staff were under 18 years of age.
By starting work so young, and working such long hours, children miss out on their fundamental right to an education, resulting in a continuous cycle.
A 2019 report issued by the University of Sheffield found that many clothing corporations have committed to paying a living wage to all workers within their supply chain due to increased pressure from the consumer and activities. However, upon review of 20 garment companies, it was found that action taken to fulfill the commitment was varied. Many organizations opted to outsource their living wage commitments to external initiatives, which have unenforceable standards.
Due to lack of policy, workers within the garments industry often come up against unfulfilled wage commitments. And with little transparency amongst the industry, it isn’t easy to obtain confirmation of the actual wage given to employees down through the supply chain.
HEALTH & SAFETY
With Regular news reports surfacing, detailing tragic stories of fires, collapsed buildings, and hazardous chemical exposure, the garment industry is under increasing pressure to improve workers’ conditions.
One of the most tragic stories in recent times is 2013, Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, resulting in over 1,100 people losing their lives. The building housed five garment factories and is among the worst industrial accidents on record. It was reported that no compensation was paid on the employer liability. Still, some of the global buyers did set up voluntary payment schemes to assist the families of those who died.
Other occupational hazards within the garment industry include exposure to chemicals and pesticides. Common chemicals utilized in the manufacturing process include:
- Formaldehyde – Protects against the growth of fungus & bacteria in clothing
- Lead/ Heavy metals – Dying fabrics
- Chlorine – Bleaching of garments
- Ammonia – Prevent the shrinking of clothes
Within the cotton industry, respiratory conditions occur due to the exposure of cotton dust and fibers. Due to the efforts of minimizing cost and maximizing profit, there can be a failure to implement the workplace safety standards, including the supply of PPE and development of workplace risk assessments.
The Garment industry has a sizable carbon footprint with textile production. It is one of the most polluting industries, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year. According to the UN by 2050, fashion could be responsible for 25% of all carbon emissions.
A report issued by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in December 2019 highlighted that textiles are the fourth-largest cause of environmental pressure. Critical aspects within the industry include waste generation, chemical leaching, and waste consumption.
The fashion industry produces nearly 20% of global wastewater. With reports stating that it takes 2,700 Liters of Water to Make one cotton T-Shirt, it is easy to see how this has occurred.
REACHING OUT TO BRANDS
After those heavy facts, I feel it is essential to finish this blog by pointing out that not all fashion brands can be tarnished with the same brush. There is some fantastic sustainable work being carried out, and promoting this is more important than ever before. As someone who may be in the position to promote or influence the purchase of goods, whether you work in the procurement department in the office or have a social media following, it is vital you know the brands you are supporting. Reach out, ask for their policies, ask the difficult questions, and encourage positive change.
Thank you for reading
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog. The Sustainability Strategy aims to build a community that feels free to openly discuss their environmental views. If you enjoyed the content and would like to get involved in the Sustainable growth conversation, I would love to hear from you. I would love to hear from you. You can find me on Pinterest, and Instagram.