Sustainable fashion: where we are today and why matters

We are taking a stand and making ourselves clear: The fashion industry has a problem with its environmental and social impact.

Sustainable fashion: where we are today and why matters

It has a linear production system that must be eliminated

The textile industry’s production model operates under the linear production system: production, consumption, use and disposal without re-entry into the production circuit. It is a closed cycle that depletes the planet’s natural resources, contributing to deforestation, uncontrolled carbon emissions, droughts, floods, global warming, consumerism and high waste generation. On a planet with all the climate and ecological alarm bells ringing, the fashion industry’s figures send shivers down the spine. Let’s take a look at some of these figures. 

The impact of fashion on the environment

The textile industry is mainly dependent on non-renewable resources. Currently, millions of tonnes of non-renewable resources are consumed in total every year, including oil, to produce synthetic fibres, fertilisers to grow cotton, and chemicals to produce and dye fibres and textiles. On the other hand, it is an abusive industry in terms of water consumption. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry uses around 93 billion cubic metres of water per year, the equivalent of 37 million Olympic-size swimming pools. 

The sector’s impact extends beyond the use of raw materials. As well as consuming resources beyond their regenerative capacity, the textile industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. The sector’s total greenhouse gas emissions amount to billions of tonnes per year, accounting for more than 8% of total global carbon emissions according to the Quantis report. The fashion industry is a major contributor to industrial water pollution worldwide, polluting not only the air but also the water. It is estimated that 20% of the total global water waste is generated by the textile sector, according to various studies led by the UN. The industry also has major health impacts. The use of hazardous substances in wet textile weaving and finishing processes has negative health effects on farmers, mill workers and the surrounding environment.  

The industry’s huge footprint extends beyond raw material use and manufacturing. The impacts of consumer use are increasingly problematic. During the washing cycle, garments made from fossil based polymers materials release plastic microfibres that contribute to ocean pollution. It is estimated that the fashion industry releases half a million tonnes of microfibres into the ocean each year, which, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation,, is equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles. 

Considering that resources are limited, the problem is heightened when less than 1% of the material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothes, 87% of the material used for textile production ends up in landfill and the reuse of garments worldwide has been reduced by 36% in the last 15 years, as reported by the Circular Fibres Initiative for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The industry’s linear production system is not only the cause of many environmental and waste management problems, but the inefficiency of the model itself also leads to significant annual economic losses. 

The impact of fashion on people

The social impact is no less important. Fashion is an industry of time and cost. The consequences of this fundamentally flawed approach are serious: inequality, low wages, serious health problems, including skin and respiratory problems caused by uncontrolled exposure to chemicals, hazards, long working hours and non-existent safety conditions. 

The impact of overconsumption

The gravity is heightened by the fact that consumer trends suggest that demand for clothing will continue to grow rapidly, driven by emerging markets such as Asia and Africa.  If growth continues as expected, total clothing sales will reach 160 million tonnes by 2050, more than three times the current amount.  In a business-as-usual scenario, the negative impacts will be catastrophic: by 2050 the fashion industry will use a quarter of the global carbon budget, the use of materials and water will become increasingly problematic, 22 million tonnes of microplastics will be dumped into the ocean, and carbon emissions will rise from 2% of the global industry to 26%. 

Today, existing solutions for the transformation of the fashion industry do not generate enough of an impact. Fashion needs deep, systemic change through collaboration and full transparency and disruptive solutions.  Building a better industry requires collaboration, awareness, knowledge and action.

Let’s work together and build a responsible, ethical and safe production model, we want to help you and we know how to do it!

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