As the climate crisis escalates there is no denying that consumer habits are impacting the planet. Living more sustainably is a way that we, as consumers, can help combat climate change, but it’s going to make the change on a governmental and industry level to make real change happen. So, what does sustainability mean, on an industry level, for fashion? Read on to hear our take on this, and what codes of conduct to look out for to assess a fashion brand’s sustainability.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change in the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. In essence, this involves limiting the harm caused to the environment and to people in the production of new garments thus producing in a way that is sustainable to the planet.
Sustainability is big business but so is greenwashing – and unfortunately, many companies want to be seen as eco-friendly without doing the groundwork. To be considered ‘sustainable’, a fashion brand must show real commitment to sustainable ideals, providing real transparency around ethical practices connected to supply chains and how their production process limits carbon emissions, reduces waste, and embraces renewable and recyclable resources.
How To Tell If a Fashion Brand is Truly Sustainable?
There are nine codes of conduct that can help identify whether or not a company embraces a truly ethical approach to fashion:
- Empowering People
- Resource Management
A sustainable company doesn’t need to align with all of these codes but will often stand by more than a few of them and be able to demonstrate that their words match their actions.
Read on to find out how some of these codes can work as part of an ethical framework for fashion sustainability.
Transparency for fashion brands means doing what they say and offering a clear as glass approach to their production process. By embracing transparency, there is no hiding how an item is made so that each step of the way brands can be held accountable and work towards better and even more sustainable practices in the future.
An artisan approach offers a social enterprise model where brands work in partnership with skilled craftspeople in the community. Artisanship often involves a commitment to craft and supports techniques that are part of keeping cultural traditions alive.
3. Empowering People
Empowering people is about ensuring safe and fair environments, working conditions, and wages. The majority of garment workers are female so by committing to fairness and a decent living wage, companies often also help women work towards financial independence.
Eco-friendly means brands prioritize the environment. Which, in practice means companies choosing environmentally-friendly and non-toxic materials such as natural fibers to work with. Brands will demonstrate design practices that are designed to minimize harmful environmental impacts, for example by limiting the use of chemicals used in the production process.
Brands choosing to be vegan are supporting and promoting animal welfare by completely removing any animal products or animal by-products. Plus, they will not test on animals. Vegan fashion brands also reduce the impact of animal agriculture, opting to use materials that don’t rely on animals. Be sure to check that the replacement material isn’t plastic-based, although most leather alternatives do contain some plastic, look for a mainly bio-based material like apple or corn leather.
Organic farming helps improve biodiversity and soil management and helps ensure better incomes for farmers. By choosing to use only certified organic materials, such as organic cotton, linen, or hemp, fashion brands prioritize natural fabrics that aren’t genetically modified or produced using harmful synthetic chemicals. This choice makes clothing safer for the people wearing the clothes, the garment workers who make the clothes, as well as reduce environmental pollution.
Circular economies involve brands moving towards a closed-loop industry by re-using fabrics and reducing waste through take-back programs, upcycling garments, and recycling materials. All these efforts help to tackle the fast fashion industry’s waste problem and reduce the environmental impacts of making new materials for the sake of it.
Managing resources and emissions during production is a key way for clothing companies to limit their environmental impact. Restrictions can include reducing the use of water, energy, and fabric, using renewable sources, and reusing existing materials to minimize their carbon footprint.
You’d be surprised to see how many countries the garment you are wearing has passed through to grow the materials and produce it! Brands that choose to produce clothing locally to where it will be sold help to support local industries and local communities by supporting the economy, as well as reducing harmful CO2 emissions through shipping. Garments produced and sold locally give fashion brands greater control over employment, production, and waste disposal standards.
Why is Sustainable Fashion Important?
The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest producers of carbon emissions and there are some shocking sustainable fashion facts about the harmful effects of fast fashion on the environment. For example, the fashion industry creates nearly 20% of global wastewater and textile production contributes more to climate change than aviation and shipping combined.
Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned globally with an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste created annually from the fashion industry. Sustainable fashion can help tackle these issues by aligning brands with sustainable codes of conduct that ensure ethical practices protect people and the environment.
In a world where the real cost of fast fashion is the slow destruction of the environment, sustainable fashion offers an ethical and eco-friendly alternative that can help reduce carbon emissions, limit the waste of natural resources and textiles that end up in landfills, and ensure workers have a fair wage and safe working conditions. When shopping sustainably online, refer back to this article, and use the nine codes to assess just how sustainable fashion brands are.