So far I’ve told you about greenwashing in different industries in a general way; and today is the day to tell you what fashion companies are doing about this very present, yet invisible, issue.
Before we start, I would like to clarify that the information I am sharing with you is pre COVID-19 information. At the end of the post I have compiled the different news about the textile industry once this radical change in life due to the confinement and the ceasing of work activity begun. Working conditions in countries like Bangladesh or China have worsened; nothing changes overnight, least of all a sector with such a large supply chain. As I said, at the end of the post I’ll share more updated information.
Many questions come to mind when I find myself wondering about sustainable living and the world in general:
- Can we believe the sustainability reports that some companies claim to have
- What is the percentage of sustainability that the company actually has?
- Can a company with a large production and generating more clothes than it sells be sustainable?
Greenwashign in the textile industry
It’s definitely not sustainable and can hardly be if it continues with that business model where up to 24 new collections are launched every year. The textile companies are fully aware of this (and many other atrocities) but they want to show us that they are starting to be sustainable … nothing could be further from the truth. Their marketing campaigns are so powerful that they trick us into believing that they are.
In the fashion sector there is a lack of transparency in general. It is an industry (as it is currently set up) that takes place in countries without laws protecting human rights and requires many suppliers, transport and countless people; making it sometimes very difficult to know where certain products come from or how they have been treated.
According to studies, “companies spend more money counting on having a greener clothing line than on paying all their workers.” More and more brands are launching greener collections; but these collections are a very small percentage compared to the rest of their production. A few garments a year is not enough to remedy the damage they are causing. The bad thing is that they leave a wrong message to the consumer who, on an unconscious level, believes that the brand he is buying is actually doing something for the environment.
What fashion brands do to look green.
1- Zara set this promise: ito use 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025. We all know that, even in the pre-COVID era, this was quite unlikely to happen. Remember that with such large and fast productions it is impossible for sustainability to exist. There are studies that say that in 2015 this company generated 16,030 tons of textile waste. To give you a more realistic idea of what 16,030 tons is, I’ll give you some comparisons:
African elephant: 9 tons.
Hippopotamus: 3.5 tons
Submarine U505: 700 tons
Eiffel Tower 10,000 tons
Tower of Pisa: 14,000 tons
2 – H&M has a space on its website dedicated to “product sustainability”; there it offers some transparency by giving the name of the companies and factories involved in the production of its garments. He also explains the differences between the materials used and invites his customers to recycle the clothes.
It seems that they have a certain will to change, although despite the sorrows it is still present, on a massive scale, in countries where labour is cheap.
Furthermore, the lines that are most sustainable are still produced in enormous quantities that are not all marketed because they have defects or are surplus; so what is left over ends up being burned with the consequent air pollution.
3 – Mango released a collection called “Committed” in which they promised to take care of the environment and use ecological fabrics. This brand often uses certificates that are not very reliable for sustainable fashion associations. It also aimed to make 50% of the cotton it uses sustainable by 2022.
Fashion Transparency Index
This chart is a Fashion Revolution initiative. It is a way of encouraging and pushing major brands to be more transparent in their policies, practices and supply chain. It shows who reveals the most information. We can also appreciate in a very visual way what is the percentage of transparency of other brands. In the chart you will see how Mango is/was one of the least transparent brands there is, at least at the beginning of 2020.
Let us remember that transparency does not equal sustainability. The fact that companies share their information does not mean that they are acting in a sustainable and ethical way, although it is a small first step. Without transparency we cannot see and protect the most vulnerable people and the planet; lack of transparency costs lives, that is clear.
I invite you to take a good look at the chart and share it, so that we can exercise our right to obtain more information.
This is an update on practices in the textile industry during the pandemic:
In March, as the world turned off, so did the fragile fashion supply chains. Sales plummeted with all that that entails in an industry with so many intermediaries and manufacturing in countries with few regulations.
H&M (which I mention a little earlier), stopped its clothing production early in the pandemic and committed to pay for all orders completed and in production.
This mark was starting to get a little closer to the approval on the Good and Bad list of the Workers’ Rights Consortium, but now it carries a negative point because of its practices during confinement. This Consortium has created a ‘COVID-19 tracker’ in order to have more control over the issue of payments to suppliers.
Levi Strauss, which joins brands such as Topshop , C&A, Gap and Sears by not committing to pay in full for all completed and in-production orders from Bangladesh; either by canceling orders directly, refusing to pay, demanding retroactive discounts or significantly extending payment terms. A Levi’s spokesman said that “some schedules may need to be adjusted due to the current crisis,” although the cowboy giant is “taking full responsibility for all orders completed, ready to ship and in progress.
It has also committed to using the raw materials that suppliers have already received for product orders in later seasons; where it expects to refocus as stores and wholesale partners reopen and consumer demand revives. Although the truth, there is no further information on whether this has been carried out or not.
Levi’s is a large and profitable company that successfully went public, reporting a net income of nearly $395 million in 2019! Come on, you have the financial capacity to be able to meet your obligations and on time.
The textile industry and the post-COVID-19 fashion brands
To date, brands and retailers have cancelled more than $3 billion in orders, the equivalent of 982 million garments according to the Bangladesh Association of Clothing Manufacturers and Exporters. There is an estimated $5 billion in irrecoverable losses to the sector in the country; jeopardizing the livelihoods of its 4 million workers.
It is clear that this tiny virus has shaken the foundations of the current system and way of life. We also know that it will take time for the planet to recover economically; we now need to be clear about our values to move towards a more sustainable and circular economy.
Do you care to enjoy the benefits of this circular economy?
How do you think the fashion industry is going to change?
Will you still buy from the same companies you did before the pandemic?