In which sectors of the economy and production can Sustainability can be applied?
Working conditions and human rights
Despite a number of international standards, certifications and government legislation working to tackle human rights at work, working conditions are not up to scratch in many of the places where clothing, accessories and footwear is made. Systematic exploitation remains rife. The harsh reality is that basic health and safety measures do not exist for huge numbers of people working in fashion’s supply chains.
Gender equality is a moral imperative whether you’re in government, business, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or research institutions – it’s simply the ‘right thing to do’.
Over the course of history, fashion has been an important vehicle for development – both on a local community level and on an international industrial scale. The modern British economy was developed in large part through textile and garment production, and now represents an estimated £37 billion contribution to the UK economy, totalling 1.7% of GDP (UK Fashion and Textiles, 2010). The American economy too has a rich history of cotton farming and apparel manufacturing. In recent years the textiles and garment sector has been critical to the growth of economies in China, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and others. A healthy fashion industry has the potential to provide jobs and help to lift people out of poverty.
Craft and skills preservation
Millions of people in the developing world, largely women, participate in the artisan sector. For many, their livelihood depends on income earned from their artisan activities. Behind agriculture, artisan activity is the second largest employer in the developing world and accounts for 56% of the market for heritage craft (Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, 2015).
Supporting young people
Young people generally experience higher rates of unemployment than older adults, which partly reflects the greater dynamism and changeability in the youth labour market. During the 2008-09 recession, young people experienced the largest falls in employment, and the greatest rise in their unemployment rate. The more recent fall in youth unemployment is a positive sign, but there is still a long way to go. However, according to European Nation in the future, every job will be a green job, contributing to varying degrees to continuous improvement of resource efficiency. Understanding the environmental impact of an occupation needs to be mainstreamed into education and training systems.
The fashion industry is a thirsty business. Cotton accounts for 90% of all natural fibres used in the textile industry and is used in 40% of apparel produced globally.
Carbon and climate change
The Carbon Trust reports that clothing accounts for around 3% of global production of CO2 emissions; this is during both manufacturing and during consumer use.
Waste and recycling
Last year the worldwide consumption of textiles reached approximately 73 million tonnes and is expected to grow nearly 4% a year through 2025 (APIC, 2014), yet only 20% of textiles are recycled each year around the world (Soex, 2014). Meanwhile, every ton of discarded textiles reused saves 20 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere and every 1000 tonnes of used textiles collected is said to create about seven full time jobs and 15 indirect jobs.
Organic and toxic chemicals
An estimated 17-20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment and an estimated 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used throughout the world to turn raw materials into textiles, many of which will be released into freshwater sources (The Guardian, 2012).
Animals are used for a variety of products for the fashion industry from fur and leather to wool, cashmere, angora, silk, to down and feathers. Animal treatment is a widely discussed issue in the public sphere. No animal deserves to live in miserable conditions, subject to pain and suffering.