BoF came out with an article, The Year Fashion Woke Up, about the awakening of the fashion industry on ethics and sustainability this year. There’s been a lot of talk, promises, and movement in regards to change after tragic yet preventable accidents like the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, which killed 1,134 people, protests against extremely low wages by factory workers, or shocking news on working conditions and child labor.
A lot of the big names like Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Stella McCartney emphasize initiative in this movement. They strive to be leaders in the fashion industry in regards to ethics and sustainability. “It is up to us to show initiative, to be extremely proactive and go beyond simple compliance rules.”
So the real question is how are they moving forward towards a cleaner and more ethical future for the fashion industry? And how are they taking charge?
They’ve created partnerships to support sustainable practices and innovation in fashion education. They’ve created programs to try to reduce emissions, water consumption and waste from suppliers. And also create a team of technical experts work to create greener solutions for materials and manufacturing.
We’ve all heard about H&M and their steps to transform into a more sustainable fashion company. Their sustainability program is lead by Helena Helmersson. They’ve made pledges to use only sustainable cotton by 2020, reduce its operations’ total greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, and improve pay structures for fair living wages in its key suppliers by 2018.
Many other fashion brands are also stepping up their game. Fashion firms like Inditex, Primark, Gap, and Levi Strauss & Co. are pushing governments for higher wages, upgrading environmental standards and labor conditions, and seeking transparency in retail supply chains.
However, we are to note that many of these gains follow considerable and tragic losses.
There is still a huge way to go and much of the positive momentum comes in the form of pledges and promises whose true worth will only be proven when followed by real action.
Theses are indeed just baby steps by fashion companies as they become more aware of injustices in the fashion industry and strive to make lasting changes towards ethical and sustainable fashion. However, it is encouraging to see as a fashion lover and conscious consumer and I hope 2015 brings in more innovative, ethical and sustainable fashion all year round!