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Sustainability of fashion industry

Executive summery

Of course the creativity is most vital parameter for global fast fashion industry; every company are offering their new collection every week to attract the people but it’s a big question for the fashion trend – is it sustainable? Nowadays climatic changes are discussing all over the world as a burning issue. Fashion companies are continuously seeking business expansion and profit. And for ensuring their benefit they are looking low cost production countries without caring the producer’s rights and environmental degradation. For supporting western fast fashion industry, disadvantage producers of poor countries are sacrificing their future by damaging their valuable resources and environment. Now scientists, sociologists, politicians, designers, producers and consumers are anxious about the future of the trendy fashion. They are seriously concentrated for finding out a good solution for sustainability of the fashion industry.

Socially, economically and environmentally sustainable practice in fashion businesses are the key to the reduction of both poverty and environmental degradation in fashion supply chain. The fashion industry can’t survive by continuous avoiding the brutal conditions of people who are staying behind the supply chain; they need recognition for their effort and work. Environmental footprint is another big threat for the future of fashion industry. Different stakeholders like designers, producers, retailers, and consumers can play an important role for avoiding environmental impacts caused by fashion industry. The vital considering points associated with the industry include –

• Practice of alternative business concept like Fairtrade or cooperative business
• Switch from conventional fashion to organic fashion
• Reduction of using fossil fuel and energy consumption during production and processing
• Sourcing of alternative eco-friendly textile materials such as organic cotton and other biodegradable textile fibres
• Using natural dyes and biodegradable chemicals for fabric processing
• Reduction usages of excessive water and chemicals in treatment by developing new technology
• Use fewer long lasting fashions instead of nondurable ‘fast fashion’ so that the total consumption can reduce
• Re-use or repairing the used old clothing can reduce the pressure from the industry

Today’s consumers are more conscious about the existing market conditions that have a higher demand for transparency in the production process and requirements for companies to take responsibility for human rights and social welfare. Thus Fair-trade business model is introduced, where the business ensure the economic rights of producers without degrading environment.

1 Concept of sustainability

The term “sustainability” is used in academic and public discourse in reference to how to make human economic systems last longer and have less impact on ecological systems, how long human ecological systems can be expected to be usefully productive [1]. The Bruntland Report (Our Common Future, World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987) which defined it as: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.[2] It upholds the social, environmental and economical standards of any development. The heart of the concept of sustainability a fundamental, immutable value set that is best stated as ‘parallel care and respect for the ecosystem and for the people within’. From this value set emerges the goal of sustainability: to achieve human and ecosystem longevity and well-being together. Thus the concept of sustainability is much more than environmental protection in another guise. It is a positive concept that has as much to do with achieving well-being for people and ecosystems as it has to do with reducing ecological stress or environmental impacts [1]. Sustainability ensures a better quality of life for everyone, now and for future generations. This can be achieved through the three strands of social equity which recognizes the needs of everyone, maintenance of stable levels of economic growth and employment, and using natural resources prudently, whilst protecting, and if possible enhancing, the environment [2].

figureSource: Developed by author; http://images.google.com/images?um=1&hl=en&q=sustainable+development&btnG=Search+Images

2 Textile and apparel supply chain

The supply chain is a network of organizations that are involved through upstream and down stream linkages in the different processes and activities that produce value in the form of products and services in the hands of the ultimate consumers (Christopher 1992). The entire supply chain consists of several organizations and activities involved in design, product development, outsourcing, production, and logistics – some are buyer-dominated and some are producer-dominated. In producer-dominated supply chain, the manufacturers play the central role over the supply chain, on the other hand in the buyer-dominated supply chain, the buyers play the central role over the supply chain. Since, the most of buyers of textile fashions are from developed countries, they dominate over the whole supply chain. They control the top segment and the producers from developing countries control the bottom segment of apparel supply chain. In most cases, for example the world leading fashion retailers including Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Gap, JC Penney, H&M, C&A, PVH, M&S etc. control the clean segment like design, development, and marketing where as the manufacturers execute the hazardous production segment according to the buyer’s requirements. In global aspect, the major corporations involved with fashion business are from United States and Europe, and the main producer is Asia especially China, Southeast Asia and South Asia [11].

forhad1 Figure: Textile supply chain

The flow of material supply is started from fibres, and the consumer purchases the final product of the supply chain as garments. In between the fibre and final product each organization comprises various functional domains, as manufacturing, planning, financing, marketing etc. An effective supply chain manages flow of demand and supply, which are moving in the opposite direction to each other, in an efficient way at every node of supply chain [12]. From the demand point of view, the apparel products are categorized as low priced Basic Product, medium priced Fashion-Basic Product and high priced Fashion Product. The demand volume of Basic Products is very high and the demand volume of Fashion Product is very low. But the durable Fashion-Basic Products have consistent demand. From price, longevity and environmental point of view this segment needs to expand for future fashion industry.

3 Sustainable fashion and sustainability of fashion industry

Fashion is an art; the term “fashion” is often used in a positive sense usually to express glamour, beauty, and style. It is an instrument that creates something different and new – new approach of thinking of life, philosophy of life. Clothing is the first considering thing in fashion and fashion industry. Now-a-days sustainable fashion and sustainability of fashion industry arisen a big debatable issue in global fashion industry. First need to understand the ‘sustainable fashion’ before understanding ‘sustainability of fashion industry’. Sustainable fashion is not just style, quality, and cost. It also consider the needs of the workers who providing the raw materials and manufacturing of the goods, and the environmental impact of the production process [3]. Organic fashion can be the leader of sustainable fashion. Organic fashion means clothing made with minimal use of chemicals. Much of today’s clothing is made from synthetic materials created using petrochemicals, which are harsh environmental pollutants [7]. Using synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, spandex are not biodegradable and are so difficult to dispose of. And it also releases harmful greenhouse gases when it breaks down. Unfortunately the natural fibres are also contaminated with different harmful chemicals. The most usable textile fibre, cotton plantations utilizes the highest levels of pesticides of any crop in the world. It considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to high consumption of insecticides and hazardous pesticides. It covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single crop [13].  Organic cotton, grown without using harmful insecticides and pesticides may be an acceptable solution. Using wool from organically reared sheep can be a good source of safe textile fibre. Besides these, other natural organic fibres such as organic hemp, flax, jute, wood fibre, bamboo fibre can be used in fashion.

The London College of Fashion has announced the creation of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) to follow up the sustainability of fashion sector across the entire supply chain. Dr Frances Corner, Head of London College of Fashion commented, “London College of Fashion is committed to drive up the quality of advice, information and support surrounding issues of sustainability and climate change.  Environmental and ethical concerns should be high on everyone’s agenda, as fundamental considerations for any forward thinking fashion organization. We must fight for change to ensure not just better lives for people currently in the industry, but also to safeguard future generations. The creation of the CSF underlines our commitment to this sector.”

Sustainable fashion is the base of sustainability of fashion industry. Sustainability of fashion refers how to make the fashion sustainable and long lasting considering the loyalty of manufactures and customers without compromising environmental, social and economical issues. It considers several ethical issues like [4]:
•  Fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights, throughout the supply chain
•  Supporting sustainable livelihoods and communities
•  Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use
•  Using organically produced natural fibres, e.g. Organic cotton
•  Minimizing water use
•  Addressing energy efficiency, recycling and waste
•  Education, training and awareness raising initiatives

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