How Is Sustainability Defined In The Fashion Industry?
Pioneering Change: Sustainability In The Fashion Industry
By Courtney Raymond
“Sustainable”, “eco-friendly”, “recycled”. Fashion brands are throwing around these popular buzzwords. Whether the effort is genuine or simply a tactic to wiggle their way into your wallet, it’s up to consumers to figure out what brands are truly pioneering change. However, figuring out how to make Earth-conscience wardrobe purchases can be confusing. What brands are doing it right and what does sustainable fashion even mean? The reality is sustainable fashion doesn’t have one all-encompassing definition. Brands that acknowledge the negative effects of fast fashion, as well as make a commitment to environmental progress, continued learning and improvement are more deserving of your hard-earned dollars.
As sustainable fashion slowly shifts from a nice-to-have to a must, brands across the globe are unveiling plans for “going green”. For some, sustainability is a handy catchphrase that ends with paper bags and energy savings. According to a recent online survey conducted by Competition and Markets Authority of 500 corporate websites, 40 percent claimed to be eco-friendly, but were not actually able to prove their statements. For others, sustainability means much more. From using organic materials, biodegradable dyes and eco-friendly packaging, to engineering designs that create no waste and committing to fair trade and labor practices, there are numerous ways to create more ecologically friendly products. Fashion brands that are concerned with the future of the planet and are engaging in transparent conversations and information sharing are headed in the right direction.
Real change doesn’t happen overnight though. Fast fashion is all around us and as a consumer, it might feel unrealistic to purchase only sustainable styles. Start slow and join us in a continuing conversation about environmental consciousness. Here are some tips for how to begin shopping with sustainability in mind.
(1) Identify what environmental & social concerns are most important to you.
Outline the issues closest to your heart and let them guide who gets a piece of your wallet. Before you hit add to cart, look at the owner(s) of the company, their manufacturing processes and social media presence to give you a deeper understanding of who they are and what they represent. Venetia La Manna, co-founder of sustainable fashion platform Remember Who Made Them, also suggests looking at how many products a brand is selling on their website. If it’s in the thousands, consider the after effects of all those offerings. For example, fast fashion leads to a staggering 70 pounds of clothing and shoes being thrown away per person, every year.
(2) Watch out for greenwashing.
We’ve all been fooled by the savvy marketing tactics of a well-known company. Some fashion brands are even engaging in greenwashing or “green sheen”, a form of deceptive messaging used to persuade consumers that a company’s products and policies are environmentally friendly. It’s not enough these days to trust a tagline or fancy branding at face value. Be on the lookout for vague buzzwords that can’t be proven and a lack of transparency.
(3) Sustainable fashion and ethical fashion are different terms, but their missions are intertwined.
While sustainable fashion focuses on environmental impact, ethical fashion emphasizes the importance of social welfare and worker rights. Fashion brands that are eager to offer great products, while also making the world a better place are engaging in both. Patagonia, for example, was one of the first brands to start using recycled materials and organic cotton. Today, robust commitments to environmental and social responsibility, as well as global and community activism can be found on the company’s website. In comparison, fast-fashion brand H&M recently touted its entry into circular fashion, but behind the scenes it still churns out 3 billion garments every year that quickly make their way into landfills and also has questionable fair trade and labor practices. So consider if the recycled t-shirt a brand is offering actually qualifies as sustainable, especially if the garment was manufactured by an underpaid employee in poor working conditions.
The want and need for sustainable fashion is growing fast, but deciding which brands win your money can take time. Figure out what’s important to you and seek out fashion brands that are open about their efforts in environmental and social responsibility.
D.O.B is committed to building a community of sustainable, inclusive and local brands and customers.