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Ethical & Sustainable Fashion: the Way Forward for the Fashion Industry
The fashion industry needs to be continually adapting to the changing needs of its customers, regulators and the planet. In recent years, there has been growing pressure to confront the impacts of fast-fashion on the environment. As a result, a number of key players in the fashion industry have committed to better practices, steering the sector towards greater sustainability and ethics.
Defining Sustainability & Ethics in the Fashion Industry
Broadly speaking, sustainable fashion encompasses responsible production practices that are less damaging to the environment and the people who produce clothing. It includes taking stock of one’s impact on climate change and promoting long-term solutions. When it comes to ethics, companies are aiming to ensure fair working practices and decent wages for their employees, and also encouraging a broader sector-wide transformation.
What Does a More Ethical & Sustainable Fashion Industry Look Like?
Creating a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry requires an extensive shift, from production to customer experience. Five key pillars provide a good basis for understanding the necessary requirements of an ethical and sustainable fashion industry.
- Increased Transparency & Accountability – Companies must provide key information about their production, manufacturing and supply chains. This will give customers the opportunity to make informed decisions and further empower them to demand ethical solutions.
- Reduced Environmental Impact – Responsibility and innovation must go hand-in-hand, with the development of smarter production techniques, and more responsible sourcing.
- Better Quality – Higher quality items will last longer, reducing the need for speedy disposability. Offering better quality and higher value-for-money garments can also encourage customers to purchase fewer garments.
- Re-thinking Consumption – Consumption habits must change, with customers encouraged to buy less. Companies should also shift attitudes towards sustainable and conscious buying habits and behaviors, such as increased second-hand and vintage buying, or an emphasis on long-term investing.
- Education & Awareness-Raising – Everyone involved in the fashion industry should be taught about the industry’s history, cultural dynamics and impacts on the environment, as well as their ethical and sustainability responsibilities.
Comprehensive implementation of this action plan requires the collaboration of stakeholders, from customers and designers to manufacturers, retailers and policy-makers. Together, they can work to leverage the power of the industry and encourage an ethical and sustainable approach to fashion.
Some Key Players In Ethical & Sustainable Fashion
Changing the culture of the fashion industry isn’t an easy feat. However, many individual players and organizations are making powerful statements and encouraging others to follow suit. Here are three of the key players leading the change.
- Organisations such as the Ethical Trading Initiative are driving change from within the industry, putting pressure on brands to commit to ethical practices and creating minimum standards for the entire sector.
- Sourcemap is an AI-powered transparency platform for the retail industry. Sourcemap makes it easy for companies to share detailed information about their products, helping customers make more ethical decisions.
- Duran Lantink, a multi-disciplinary designer, is making statements with his intricate, upcycled fashion designs. His work calls attention to waste in the fashion industry, while also creating something beautiful and inspiring.
These are just a few of the people and organisations leading the way towards a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry. But to truly drive the shift, it needs to be systemic and the industry should come together to put pressure on everyone involved to live up to higher standards.
There’s no denying the role that the fashion industry plays in climate change and exploitation of workers. But if we have the will, we can reset the course and make fashion more sustainable and ethical. Adopting a new way of working and engaging with customers will encourage meaningful change and an improved attitude towards consumption.