Sustainability in fashion, the eternal issue

Few issues in the fashion business have provoked greater consensus than sustainability. But, how can sustainability in fashion be defined? Keep reading!

Sustainability in fashion, the eternal issue

What stage is the fashion industry at in this era of transformation? How do we apply sustainability strategically as a business driver, as well as a catalyst for change? How can we take sustainable transformation to the next level? What role does the fashion industry play in the current global environmental and social crisis? Is economic progress possible while respecting human rights and nature? How do you apply sustainability to a profitable business?

In recent years, fashion brands both large and small have prioritised concepts such as: minimising their environmental and social impact, improving circularity and showing more awareness by giving names and surnames to their raw materials and suppliers. Sustainability is fashionable, and it’s here to stay. However, over-information, a lack of data and subjective judgement deriving from a lack of knowledge are the main reasons why employing sustainability in the fashion industry today is almost a utopian ideal.

The Sustainability Paradox: Why is it still an unresolved issue?

Let’s think about the world and the two realities that coexist in it. Side A is a world of amenities, with an infinite supply of goods and services. Side B is an extremely poor world, in which one-third of the population suffers from hunger and poverty, a world in which access to basic services, healthcare, and education are unattainable. The most curious issue in this situation is that hunger persists – even though, according to environmental data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), food for more than 12 billion people is produced daily, despite the planet only having 7 billion inhabitants. The problem is not resources, but sustainable, efficient resource management.

It’s been on everyone’s lips for decades; sustainability, an eternal issue

The term sustainable development, as we understand it today, was first defined in the «Brundtland Report – Our Common Future» in 1987. Conducted by a commission headed by Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, it defines sustainability as «meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs». In order for the world to fulfil this premise, three essential conditions must be met:

  • Use renewable resources at a rate commensurate with their rate of renewal.
  • Not consume non-renewable resources faster than necessary.
  • Produce pollution and waste only at rates that the Earth can assimilate or absorb.

None of the three conditions are being met at present. While it is true that the «Brundtland Report – Our Common Future» brought global development issues to the forefront, it is also true that the problem remains the same today. How is it possible that from 1987 until now, the same problems, which are becoming more and more serious and evident, are still being tackled? Environmental data shows the depletion of natural resources, uncontrolled pollution, an irreversible loss of biodiversity and the already proven effects of climate change, coupled with increasing inequality.

Sustainability as opportunity rather than obligation, being both a business and change driver

In this context of crisis, we are all conscious of the disruption and impacts of the fashion industry’s growth-at-all-costs model on people and the environment. It is clear that a paradigm shift in the textile sector is essential if we want to secure its future at all levels. There is no doubt that sustainability is synonymous with change, transformation and innovation. This change must come from the heart of the fashion brand, being aware of the challenge of sustainable transformation not only as a social, environmental, and ethical responsibility, but also as a business driver.

The goal is clear: we all want to be sustainable, transparent and accountable. But how can the fashion industry address the transformation of its production and consumption system without the right knowledge and data? I speak from a position of expertise when I say that, without identifying what we want to do, we cannot decide to act. In this context, knowledge is the key component for the textile sector’s successful transition towards environmental, social and economic efficiency and sustainability.

I speak from a position of expertise when I say that, without identifying what we want to do, we cannot decide to act

Alba García-Betorz, CoCEO

That is why BCOME is now launching its blog on textile sector sustainability, with the aim of providing the answers that the fashion industry needs – to implement sustainability and run profitably, intelligently and with a 360º vision for the future. Welcome to the BCOME blog on sustainability in the fashion industry, a space where you can learn, understand and apply everything you need to know in order to build your future through sustainability. Let’s make together a positive impact to the world. 

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