In 2019, the Swedish Fashion Council cancelled Stockholm Fashion Week in order to concentrate on reaching sustainability goals. Sweden has always been the leading country when it comes to sustainability, making it the most sustainable country in the world. In 2017, they introduced a tax on chemicals in electronics, and at the end of 2019 they announced that they will be introducing a chemical tax on clothes. Not only will this tax protect workers and consumers from the potential health risks, but it protects the environment. Other countries have started to take a leaf from Sweden’s book, but debate still surrounds whether it is consumer mindset that needs to shift in order for change to happen. The Swedish Fashion Council states that consumer mindset has changed, but if sustainable products cannot be easily accessed, then consumers can’t actively change their habits.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) wrote a report in 2019 containing the issues and possible solutions for the fashion industry in the UK and abroad. In the report, the committee suggested that we should replicate Sweden’s tax system in order to reduce consumption. There were also other issues referenced, including worker rights, synthetic fibre pollution, and water wastage. In the Government response, they referenced current laws and made pacts to ensure that the fashion industry lessened its contribution to climate change. One pact they made in particular was a part of their Resource and Waste strategy. Currently, the strategy does not have any requirements regarding micro-fibre shedding. Most micro-fibre shedding comes from textiles, and they are not biodegradable. They eventually end up in our oceans and make their way into the aquatic food chain. The Government made a pact to update this strategy to include micro-fibre shedding requirements in order to reduce the amount of plastic that inevitably ends up in our oceans.
As we already know, consumers are becoming more aware of the impacts of the fast fashion industry. But instead of allowing consumers to find out this information for themselves, education systems should teach children about sustainability as their interest in fashion develops. In the Government report, a pact was made to educate pupils on the different aspects of the fashion industry. Not only does the Committee and Government place importance on children learning about these issues, but they encourage the creativity and mental health benefits that come with the ‘satisfaction of designing and repairing clothes.’
The EAC responded stating that they would be keeping a close eye on the pacts made by the Government and any progress made.
President Emmanuel Macron gave a mission to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Kering, François-Henri Pinault, to ‘bring together the leading players in fashion and textile' and reduce the environmental impact of the industry. This pact tackles three major issues: climate, biodiversity, and oceans. The 32 fashion and textile companies that signed this pact all contribute in their own way to making the industry more sustainable; however, as a collective, the impact will be on a much larger scale. The three targets are: stopping global warming (zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050), restore natural ecosystems and protect wildlife, and removing single-use plastics from our oceans as well as reducing the negative impact the industry has on them. The 32 companies include: ADIDAS, Armani, H&M, Nordstrom, Selfridges, and Stella McCartney.
In Davos, the CEO Agenda 2020 was released by the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA). This Agenda was co-written by ASOS, Bestseller, H&M, Kering, Li & Fung, Nike, PVH Corp., Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and Target. It focusses on the most crucial elements of sustainability and shines a new light on biodiversity and what the industry needs to do in order to protect wildlife and ecosystems. CEO of the GFA said:
We are living in a time of unprecedented overproduction and overconsumption, and we are simply pushing our planet beyond its limits. I urge fashion leaders to re-evaluate the current growth logic. This is not only essential to future-proof their business, but it’s also crucial for humanity to operate within planetary boundaries. I appreciate that this is not an easy task, which is why we have created the CEO Agenda as a tangible tool to help CEOs navigate sustainability, find solutions and protect generations to come.
The GFA and Kering have partnered on a joint redesigning venture. This venture will work with experts, academia, and other industries to find more innovative solutions. They wish to identify the systemic changes needed to make a difference.
The textile industry in the US already has laws in place to protect consumers and reduce waste. There are regulations currently in place that limit the environmental impacts from factories, as well as water treatment plants that keep chemicals out of water supplies.
When donating clothes to charity organisations, Americans are eligible for tax deductions. This gives an incentive to the public to donate unwanted clothes in order to receive benefits in return. Donated clothes are also resold to low-income communities in other countries in order to recycle textiles and reduce the amount of clothing that ends up on landfill. The Trans-America Trading Company is probably the biggest organisation that aids in promoting sustainability in the US. The Company manually separates textiles into 300 different categories depending on item, size, and fibre content. This ensures efficiency and allows for a broad variety of textiles to be donated; once again reducing the number of garments that end up on landfill sites.
It’s evident that there are a number of laws currently in place across the globe that aid in advancing sustainability. There are a vast number of organisations and companies that are educating our governments and the public on the fast fashion industry and the importance of sustainability. In reports like the one produced by the EAC; we can see that there is still a lot more that Governments can do. Making pacts is a small step as it is recognition that something must be done; however, actions speak louder than words. Greta Thunberg recently spoke at the World Economic Forum saying that ‘pretty much nothing has been done’ about climate change and global warming. The conversation regarding these issues has been loud and constant, but there needs to be systemic chance and updates in the law to ensure that sustainable goals are reached. Let’s hope that in 2020 we see changes in laws and systems in place to protect consumers, workers, and the environment from the pollution of the fashion industry.