Consumers play a crucial role in the sustainability of the fashion industry. They must be made aware of the issue and be empowered to make the right choices. This can be done by making information about sustainability accessible and understandable to all. This information can change people’s habits and encourage them to adopt environmentally friendly practices, such as washing full loads, switching to energy-efficient washing machines, using cold water instead of hot, and using biodegradable detergents.
The European Union has implemented many regulations to reduce the negative impact of clothing industry processes on the environment. The EU Ecolabel is one example. It is designed to ensure that manufacturers and importers use low levels of harmful substances and that the final product is free from chemicals and toxic substances. It also requires that manufacturers inform consumers of the chemicals they use in their products. The European Union is also funding a project called Resyntex, which will use chemical recycling to reduce the environmental impact of clothing production.
The clothing industry substantially impacts the atmosphere, and emissions are set to increase by 60% by 2030. It emits 2.8 billion tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to about 230 million passenger cars driving for an entire year. The most significant environmental impact of the industry is associated with the processing and use of apparel, as well as the production of raw materials. The benefits of sustainable manufacturing for the sector also come with a high level of risk due to the effects of climate change and increasing sea levels.
The fashion industry has to shift gears to become more socially and environmentally responsible. There are several barriers to doing this, such as more education and regulation. But it can become a driver of social transformation. Olga Algayerova, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), emphasized the need for collaboration between different actors to achieve these goals.
The textile industry’s environment, health, and social footprint are all negatively affected by production processes. These processes use non-renewable resources, vast amounts of energy and water, and leak toxic chemicals into the environment. It also causes hazardous working conditions and damages crops. For example, in many countries, cotton production causes deforestation and decreases the diversity of crops grown in these regions. Moreover, many textile workers are exposed to toxic chemicals in manufacturing.
The Netherlands, mainly, has developed a national ambition to increase CE and its social impact. This includes a specific policy on the reshoring of value chains in Europe. The Netherlands is also committed to improving the quality of jobs and wages of workers. Further, it is working to improve social ambition in the clothing industry through better coordination between policymakers and businesses.
Upcycling reduces the need for new materials and resources and also saves money. In addition, it conserves natural fibers and reduces the need for deforestation. The recycling of old clothes and fabrics also saves water. Moreover, upcycling is a cost-effective way of generating revenues for businesses.
In addition to reducing costs, upcycling also contributes to a circular economy. It uses leftover materials and re-designs them to produce a better quality product. The process starts from design and goes up to the entire manufacturing cycle. As a result, upcycled products are more valuable.
Upcycling is a growing fashion trend that is helping to save resources and keep tons of textile waste out of landfills. It is also a means to offer new and trendy clothing to consumers without damaging the environment. Moreover, upcycled garments act as art pieces and cultural commentary while connecting consumers with makers.
Increasing wages for garment workers is one of the essential steps toward sustainable development in the clothing industry. Legal minimum wages are too low, and businesses are responsible for ensuring that workers are paid a living wage. As a result, brands need to act as moral agents in the wage development of their supply chains. To do this, they are increasingly looking to the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, which call for businesses to be accountable for their actions. Fair wages in the clothing industry must be achieved by coordinated efforts from different actors in the value chain, including brands, suppliers, designers, and manufacturers.
A living wage is needed to meet basic needs and provide workers with discretionary income. Government-set minimum wages need to be more for many people to live. Although retailers and suppliers have progressed in getting suppliers to pay workers statutory entitlements like the prevailing minimum wage, pension contributions, holiday pay, and sick pay, they still need to achieve a living wage. The majority of people struggle to survive on a daily subsistence wage.