What Is Sustainable Fashion And Why Do We Need To Change The Way We Shop? (Pt. 2)
Following on from the first in series of blog posts about sustainability in fashion, I want to revisit the Sustainable Development Goals. The fashion industry is linked with 6 of the 17 SDGs, and I'll cover each goal in more detail over this series of journal posts. I'll be starting with the human side of the industry and exploring the following SDGs in more detail; number one 'No Poverty' and number five 'Gender Equality'.
To understand how the fashion industry is so heavily intwined in the issues of poverty and gender inequality, it is necessary to understand how the fashion industry as whole, operates.
The high number of processes and workers involved in the entire supply chain demonstrate the complexity of managing the supply chain for any brand. From the buyers perspective (the person working at any brand's HQ that is responsible for selection, development and price negotiation) the supply chain is often a web of agents, contractors and sub-contractors. Unfortunately this means it can be hard to trace the origin of every component that goes into a product. It can be hard to ensure farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, cutters and sewers were paid fairly, treated well and that the supply chain had been free of exploitation of people.
The fashion industry is among the most labour intensive industries, it directly employs over 60 million people and indirectly employs another 300 million people (working across the cotton sector). Of this workforce, 70-80% are women.
Sadly there are many ways in which the garment sector is guilty of exploiting it's workers. Issues range from modern slavery, human trafficking, bonded labour, child labour, sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, forced labour and excessive work hours.
Unfortunately the problem of child labour is a huge one. The statistics are shocking. Worldwide there are 152 million children (under 15) engaged in child labour (ILO statistic) and 45% of these are aged between 5-11 years.
Every brand, producer of clothing, has a responsibility to ensure everyone in their supply chain is treated fairly. The fast-fashion industry has completely re-defined consumers perception of 'value'. A boohoo.com customer buying a dress for £5 is undoubtedly not paying the labourers involved fairly.
Demand for cheap clothing is massive! By consistently driving down the cost of clothing fashion brands put huge pressure on their suppliers to produce large quantities in very short time frames for very low prices. Exploitation is inevitable.
The average garment worker earns a quarter of the Living Wage. The low earnings that are so prevalent in the garment manufacturing industry mean often people are forced to send their children to work so they can earn enough to eat and keep a roof over their heads.
It's all very depressing right? Well, this is where you the consumer comes in... you need to make it clear to the brands what you value as a customer. you have the power to affect change. You can vote with your wallet, you can choose not to support brands that sell dresses for £5, you can write to your favourite brands (hit them up on Insta/Twitter/Facebook) and demand transparency. You can ask them to assure you no child has helped make your clothes and that workers involved were not mistreated.
My aim for this blog series is to empower you to make change and to demand transparency from the fashion industry. For many years it's been making it's own rules and we need to help re-write the rule book.
Dinki Human pays what we're asked to pay, we do not negotiate lower, unsustainable prices and work to ensure every part of the supply chain is free of exploitation. Every supplier we work with signs our Ethical Standards Declaration and is committed to working in a way that is aligned with our ethos. You can read all about the Dinki Ethos in detail here.
References and additional reading materials in case you're interested;
Slave to Fashion - Safia Minney, 2017, New Internationalist Publications Ltd
To Die For - Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? - Lucy Siegle, 2011, Fourth Estate
Wardrobe Crisis - Clare Press, 2016, Skyhorse Publishing
A Practical Guide to Sustainable Fashion - Alison Gwilt, 2014, Bloomsbury Publishing
Fashion Revolution - A fantasic website full of information and resources. -
Fashion Revolution - It's Time for a Fashion Revolution - Manifesto -
Labour Behind the Label - The right to a living wage -
ILO - International Labour Organisation - https://www.ilo.org/global/lang--en/index.htm
UNDP - United Nations Development Programme - SDGs No Poverty -
UNDP - United Nations Development Programme - SDGs Gender Equality -