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Sustainability In Fashion

Updated: May 5, 2021


Sustainability plays an integral role in the fashion industry by providing ecological and environmentally friendly tools and materials to sustain the world of fashion. With the garment industry already contributing to 10% of annual global carbon emissions according to statistics provided by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it is essential for changes to be implemented, with efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.

Fast fashion companies such as Boohoo and Missguided are the main perpetrators of contributing to pollution according to the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee’s investigation into the environmental and social impacts of disposable ‘fast fashion’ in June 2018. The design process takes place in the United Kingdom and the United States, but the production and manufacturing occur in developing countries such as Bangladesh. However, exploitation has also been in effect more locally in areas such as Leicester, United Kingdom, where several violations were found at factories, resulting in the Trade Union Congress (TUC) demanding for better working conditions. Fast fashion companies utilise and exploit developing countries as regulations around pollution are often less strict, as opposed to regulations in the European Union, such as Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) which was introduced in 2007 to address the production and use of chemical substances and improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals.

Buyers are more inclined to purchase products from manufacturers who highlight the importance of the words ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ and are able to execute this effectively when put into practice. As the demand for sustainability increases, manufacturers are eager to take the necessary steps in providing ecologically sustainable products for their consumers. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic threatening global trade flows, nearshoring has become the appealing method in distributing products. Nearshoring allows the transfer of business operations between nearby and neighbouring countries, as opposed to distant countries, thus rapidly reducing the carbon emissions caused by shipping. Furthermore, nearshoring focuses on providing value to the client whilst offering a higher return on investment, instead of aiming to provide the lowest possible rates (Tiempo Development, 2020). However, nearshoring does have its negatives with it being less cost effective in comparison to trading with offshore partners, such as China, which offers low wage rates for their millions of workers, cheap loans, lands and factories, and have few workers’ rights laws (Fishman, 2006).

Although trading via nearshoring is less cost-effective, it will impact the annual carbon emissions substantially, which has the potential to lessen annual carbon emissions substantially, which will hopefully result in a positive net impact in the fashion industry and for the environment. It is vital for all contributors in the garment industry to participate in reducing their carbon footprint to ensure that sustainability practices are in full effect. This includes buyers ensuring that they purchase from manufacturers who use sustainable criteria when generating clothing, as well as consumers being more commercially aware of the companies that they purchase from. With all contributors making environmental commitments, the venture of sustainable fashion production and retail will come into fruition, providing a greener future for fashion.

Written by Doushali Jogeeah -


BBC News. 2020. Fast fashion must give 'better deal' for Leicester factory workers. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 April 2021].

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. 2018. UK: Environmental Audit Committee investigates sustainability of fashion industry - Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 April 2021].

Fishman, T., 2005. China, Inc.. New York: Scribner.

Fleischmann, M., 2019. How Much Do Our Wardrobes Cost to the Environment?. [online] The World Bank. Available at: <

ambiente#:~:text=Every%20year%20the%20fashion%20industry,needs%20of%20five%20million%20people.&text=The%20fashion%20industry%20is%20responsible,flights%20and%20maritime%20shipping%20combined.> [Accessed 7 April 2021].

Petter, O., 2019. Boohoo and Missguided among worst offenders in sustainability inquiry. [online] The Independent. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 April 2021].

Tiempo Development. 2020. Nearshoring Benefits & Disadvantages | Tiempo Dev. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 April 2021].

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