The Rana Plaza tragedy, which killed thousands of garment workers, is a wake-up call for fashion companies to increase transparency. It highlighted the lack of transparency in supply chains and how this can result in unsafe working conditions and environmental damage. Transparency will make it easier for customers and fashion businesses to understand how their purchases can contribute to responsible fashion.
In recent years, transparency has gained ground in the fashion industry. While some brands resist sharing information about their supply chains and products due to fears of negative implications, most brands lag. Transparency requires time, effort, and resources. However, there are ways to make this process easier. For instance, a transparent supply chain may lead to increased consumer trust.
The high street continues to lead the way in terms of transparency, although luxury brands are also making headway. A recent report by Fashion Revolution ranks the world’s largest fashion retailers and brands by their transparency levels. The Fashion Transparency Index ranks 250 fashion brands based on the information they release about their supply chains, garment workers’ rights, and other social factors.
The fashion industry is one of the leading industries negatively impacting the environment. While the fast-fashion trend may make shopping for clothes more manageable and affordable, the process has social and environmental costs. The globalization of the fashion industry has reduced the cost of production, but many consumers treat clothing as disposable items. Despite the environmental and occupational hazards, these disposable items are still popular among consumers.
The UK Government has taken steps to curb the social cost of fashion. For instance, it recently announced plans to require reports on the risks of modern slavery in the UK garment industry. UK public bodies with budgets exceeding PS36 million will have to report any risks. However, it has rejected most of the recommendations from the Fixing Fashion report, including a producer responsibility charge and due diligence checks in the fashion supply chain.
Fashion is a global industry that affects the environment in several ways. The production of clothing requires a lot of water. The industry consumes about 93 billion cubic meters of water annually – equivalent to four percent of all freshwater withdrawals worldwide – and this number is set to increase by 20 percent by 2030. Furthermore, the industry generates vast waste, equating to 20 percent of global wastewater. Producing a pair of Levi’s jeans requires over three thousand liters of water. Textiles used in the fashion industry are also heavily polluting, and the chemicals they contain pose many health risks.
The fashion industry is notorious for the environmental damage it causes, and it is becoming increasingly conscious of this problem. The sector is responsible for ten percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. It also contributes to the degradation of soils, and over thirty percent of all plastic microfibers end up in the oceans.
Consumers’ desire for sustainable fashion
There’s a growing trend in American society toward sustainable fashion. Many consumers, especially Gen Z and Millennials, want to buy products made sustainably and are willing to spend more money on them. Unfortunately, their purchasing decisions sometimes reflect their desire to shop responsibly.
In a recent survey, Lerzan Aksoy, managing director of the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham University, found that consumers want to know more about their clothing’s sustainability and ethical practices. And, she found, four-in-ten consumers want to find an icon for “ethical” products or a “sustainable” filter feature on a retailer’s website. She discussed the survey results with Retail TouchPoints and the steps the apparel industry can take to turn consumer demand into action.
According to the survey, 59% of consumers aged 16 to 25 want to know how their clothes are made. The same study was conducted again in 2021 and found that 69% of respondents cited environmental concerns when purchasing clothing. This trend will likely continue to grow over the next few years as more consumers become aware of the fashion industry’s impact on our planet. The study also found that not all consumers are at the same level regarding fashion sustainability. They come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and income levels.