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Insight 25.08.2021

Sustainable fashion – a contradiction in terms?

Sustainable fashion – a contradiction in terms?

The fashion industry is attracting more and more attention for its environmental and social footprint. While it has a long way to go before becoming truly sustainable, a host of promising initiatives points towards a greener future ahead.

Over the past few years, substantial evidence has emerged to suggest that reforming the way clothes are made and sold is a crucial milestone on the path towards building a more sustainable future.

While a growing number of people is starting to ask questions about the impact of their wardrobes on the environment, the task at hand is formidable,

as for the most part the fashion industry is still geared towards producing ever higher volumes of garments with an ever shorter shelf life, both in terms of durability and seasonality. Overconsumption, the depletion of natural resources, intensive cotton farming, pollution and the production of vast quantities of unrecycled textile waste are some of the most prominent consequences of the way the garment industry has evolved over the past few decades. Social aspects such as unhealthy working conditions are further demons that the fashion world will increasingly have to battle.

Indeed, it’s not too far-fetched to argue that the fashion industry is a microcosm of the challenges faced by the manufacturing sector at large, featuring many of the problems lying in the way of the current shift towards more sustainable business practices across industries, along with some promising solutions.

From the way the raw materials used for garments are grown and harvested, to the way they are turned into fabrics, coloured, sewn and distributed, moving on to how they are priced, put up for sale, purchased, worn out and eventually discarded, a single item of clothing is the result of a myriad of decisions that collectively have a profound effect on nature and society.

Given the innumerable stakeholders, intermediaries and subcontractors involved in this lengthy and often opaque process, virtually none of us can possibly come close to knowing the full history behind each item we wear, let alone exert any meaningful control over it. This goes a long way towards explaining why the fashion industry’s social and environmental footprint has been ignored by the general public for so long.

However, on the upside, given the complexity of the journey from raw material to finished item, especially the countless steps involved, each small improvement at every single one of these steps can quickly produce a big result.

We believe that herein lies the key to tackling sustainability within fashion.

In conclusion, far from being “too big to handle”, the fashion industry offers much higher potential for environmental and social improvement than most other manufacturing sectors.


UBP Impact Team

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