How abandoning its constant consumption of resources and the generation of waste will help the fashion industry become more sustainable and create a circular fashion industry
Second only to the petrochemical industry, fashion produces pollution, landfilled waste and miserable pay and working conditions in the developing world. Fast fashion, in particular is predicated on an unsustainable routine of consumption and waste that brings thousands of products to market every year at huge social and environmental cost.
The solution lies in developing a circular economy, one where a product’s complete lifecycle is taken into account. By switching to more circular business models which includes repair, recycling, reselling, and renting items, much can be gained.
While making the shift for the good of the environment and human rights, the fashion industry also has the opportunity to take advantage of entrepreneurship and upskilling – a lot of which it is currently lacking.
The industry can also integrate informal workers into the new business model and provide them with social protection, equal pay and better working conditions overall.
The good news
The good news is that the fashion industry is at last recognizing the need for more sustainable practices that come from adopting circular business models, sometimes called: Circular Fashion.
The shift towards circular business models in the fashion industry didn’t come out of a clean blue sky. Far from it. The shift is a response to the growing environmental and social concerns associated with the traditional linear model of producing, consuming, and discarding. While we all know that the linear model is unsustainable, relying on the constant consumption of resources and the generation of waste, the problem has been magnified by the accelerating consumption and disposal encouraged by fast fashion – a constant treadmill of cheap, eminently discardable clothes at price points directly subsidized by factory workers living in appalling conditions in the developing world.
The circular model, on the other hand, aims to keep materials in use for as long as possible, reducing waste and minimizing the use of new resources. This can be achieved through a range of strategies, such as repairing and refurbishing products, recycling materials, and reselling or renting products rather than simply throwing them away.
Fashion and the circular economy
As the fashion industry transitions to circular models, the opportunities for entrepreneurship and upskilling mean workers can take on new roles in the post-consumer reduction, refurbishment and recycling product chain. This can only lead to more fulfilling and higher-paying careers for workers who may have previously been stuck in low-paying, low-skilled roles.
There is also an. important social impact of this shift to consider. Informal workers, who often work in poor conditions and without social protection, play a significant role in the fashion industry’s supply chain. By providing these workers with better working conditions, social protection, and equal pay, the industry can help to create a more sustainable and equitable system.
The shift towards a circular business model in the fashion industry represents a significant opportunity for positive change. By embracing entrepreneurship, upskilling, and social responsibility, the industry can create a more sustainable and equitable future. The values behind the manufacture of the clothes we all buy are as important as the value we get from them. Higher-paid, higher-skilled workers just make better, more durable clothes which has a positive impact in the here and now, for everyone. But where circular business models really deliver – by stopping pollution, minimizing waste and becoming more conscious of all of our environments – is in the future.