Arguably the fashion and textile industry is not sustainable in its current form. It makes a significant contribution to the global economy, but it uses a disproportionately large amount of natural resources; its waste products pollute rivers and oceans; and when garments and footwear reach the end of their lives, most are burned or placed in landfill. While some multinational brands have benefited from the wave of globalisation—increasing revenues and profits by outsourcing the growth of raw materials and basic production tasks—this practice also has its risks. Firms with long and distant supply chains have traded the traceability of their inputs for lower overheads, and weaker labour laws in many production destinations have left workers and employees with fewer protections.
What can be done to address these myriad and seemingly insurmountable challenges? What will drive the industry to change, how will this change manifest and at what cost? Many players within the industry recognise the scale of the problem and have already made substantial commitments to reduce their environmental impact. However, as the world struggles to cope with the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic, it remains unclear how this cataclysmic event will impact brands’ capacity and willingness to implement their sustainability agendas.
This report explores these questions, drawing on the expert insights and observations of key decision-makers at leading brands about the sustainability challenges the industry faces today, and about how to change the industry for the better in the future.