Will Clothing Be Sustainable? Clarifying Sustainable Fashion . . . . . . . . 1
Sandra Roos, Gustav Sandin, Bahareh Zamani, Greg Peters
and Magdalena Svanström
Sustainability in the Textile and Fashion Industries:
Animal Ethics and Welfare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Miguel Ángel Gardetti
The Virtuous Circle: Hard Sustainable Science Versus Soft
Unsustainable Science Within Marketing Functions of Fashion
and Luxury Sectors and How to Prevent ‘Soylent Green’ from Happening . . . . 75
Chloé Felicity Amos, Ivan Coste-Manière, Gérard Boyer and Yan Grasselli
Social Reporting Using GRI Disclosures: A Case of Apparel Industry . . . . . .. . . . . 89
Aswini Yadlapalli and Shams Rahman
Will Clothing Be Sustainable? Clarifying Sustainable Fashion
Sandra Roos, Gustav Sandin, Bahareh Zamani, Greg Peters and Magdalena Svanström
Abstract: The Mistra Future Fashion research programme (2011–2019) is a large Swedish investment aimed at reducing the environmental impact of clothing consumption. Midway into the programme, research results and insights were reviewed with the intent to see what picture appears from this interdisciplinary consortium, developed to address the multiple sustainability challenges in clothing consumption and the tools for intervention. Such tools comprise product design, consumer behaviour changes, policy development, business models, technical development, recycling, life cycle assessment (LCA) and social life cycle assessment (SLCA). This chapter quantifies the extent of the sustainability challenge for the apparel sector, via an analysis of five garment archetypes. It also considers to what extent different interventions for impact reduction can contribute in society’s endeavour towards sustainability, in terms of staying within an “environmentally safe and socially just operating space”, inspired by the planetary boundaries approach. In particular, the results show whether commonly proposed interventions are sufficient or not in relation to the impact reduction necessary according to the planetary boundaries. Also, the results clarify which sustainability aspects that the clothing industry are likely to manage sufficiently if the proposed interventions are realised and which sustainability aspects that will require more radical interventions in order to reach the targets.
Keywords: Fashion, Textiles, Sustainability _ Life cycle assessment (LCA) _ Social life cycle assessment (SLCA) _ Planetary boundaries
In this section, we attempt to describe the sustainability challenges faced by the fashion industry, their scale and the potential to surmount them. We adopt a life cycle thinking approach built on basic product life cycle assessment (LCA). This first section qualitatively describes the challenges and management tools for the fashion industry. The second section describes a LCA in which we scale up the impacts identified using product LCA to characterise the impacts of Swedish, American and Chinese fashion consumption. We then attempt to define sustainability in practical and quantitative goals for the fashion industry. In the fourth section of this chapter, we go on to evaluate the extent to which different interventions can enable industry to reach these goals, before concluding with a general discussion.
1.1 Systemic Challenges for Sustainable Fashion
According to the classic Brundtland definition of sustainability, sustainable development “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). In this context, the whole idea of a sustainable fashion industry may seem paradoxical. How can an industry focused on “wants” manage to deliver human “needs” in the long term? While fundamentally we need clothing for protection from variations in the weather (as distinct from fashion), it is possible to think of a human need for personal communication and that this need has been expressed via our clothing choices over the recorded history of humankind, long before current environmental concerns about the negative impacts of fashion emerged. Issues which challenge the clothing industry today, such as the excess use of limited resources, the pollutants the industry releases and the working conditions within it, are consequences of the modern scale and methods of the industry, so sustainable fashion ought to be possible, if we can decouple it from its current issues.
Limited resources are a key challenge to the sustainability of the clothing industry. Cotton is a very water-intensive product, with some analysts estimating that a kilogram of cotton textile demands the use of 8.5 tonnes of water (Pfister et al. 2009). Consequently, the production of cotton is limited by the availability of irrigation water in producer countries, where it must compete with food and fodder crops. To cope with this limited resource, the key alternative filling the demand for fibre is polyester derived from fossil hydrocarbons (Peters et al. 2014). “Peak oil” may seem like a distant prospect given the rise of the American fracking industry and current depressed oil prices (around USD 40 per barrel), but this leads to another problem, that of pollution. Our increasing reliance on synthetic fibres raises concerns associated with greenhouse gas emissions in the supply chain. Where waste textiles are combusted, this issue is also present, elsewhere the problem may be limited landfill space or the micro-plastic pollution caused (in part) by the emission of textile fibres to the environment (Eerkes-Medrano et al. 2015). There is also a wide range of other chemical emissions associated with textiles, of which the durable waterproofing chemicals are perhaps the most persistent (Holmquist et al. 2016).
Working conditions are another challenge for the sustainability of the clothing industry. The globalisation of the clothing industry over the last 30 years has perhaps lifted many people in Asia from poverty, but it has also created concerns about the abuse of labour in countries that do not have strong labour representation. This ranges from overwork, gender discrimination, child labour and (most notoriously in the case of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh) unsafe working conditions. In such cases, the sustainability problem is not connected with the ability of future generations to meet their needs, but with the current generation. A systemic aspect of the problem is that the supply chains are now so globalised and complex that it can be difficult for managers, for example those in a European clothing retailer, to know precisely where the garments they sell are being produced. The long supply chain between buyer, contractor and many subcontractors isolates management from distant workplaces, so that even if consumers demand better conditions for garment production, their implementation is challenging.