People are not aware of how to be sustainable in terms of the clothes they buy. But what do clothes have to do with the environment? ‘Fast-fashion’ is a popular term that describes clothing companies that sell newly produced garments daily. While it might be convenient for consumers and the business itself, these clothing companies cut corners on sustainability and worker empowerment across the production cycle.
Brands such as Forever 21 and Abercombie & Fitch, with an annual revenue of $2.7 billion and $3.62 billion respectively in 2019 have been declared as hardcore fast-fashion brands. They are guilty of wasting textile, using toxic chemicals in clothing production and sweatshop working conditions.
On an average, 10,000 liters of water are required to create a single kilogram of cotton. This means that a large quantity of filterable water can be conserved. Toxic chemicals can travel through waterways and pollute the sea. These sweatshops barely offer a minimum wage to their workers and have poor working conditions that disobey human rights. Additionally, clothing manufacturers who are delaying production due to the pandemic are being pressured by the demand of their consumers, which could result in even more disobedience of environmental and employment laws.
Cotton On, an expanding Australian clothing brand, claims to produce its clothing and accessories in their factories in China, Bangladesh, and India in sustainable and ethical ways – “We’re committed to creating positive change. For you. For our community. For the planet. For the things that matter to all of us. That’s our word. That’s The Good.”
Behind the Barcode, a project lead by the Baptist World Aid Australia group dedicated to helping underprivileged communities, in this case, worked to ensure the safety of vulnerable workers employed in Australian clothing companies, along with reports on environmental management. Their most recent ethical fashion report claims that very little of the Cotton On Group’s facilities have projects to improve wages and 0% of the facilities pay a living wage.
People who work in these factories such as Baobao and Guiyan (a married couple) barely get to see their child in these circumstances. The group makes little effort to analyse the environmental impacts its production has and make a change based upon it. Water plans and recycling programmes have been established, but not too much progress has been made.
The Cotton On Group might not be satisfying the conditions they say they are and it’s likely that things have not changed for the better during the pandemic. More to follow.