Public interest in ethical and sustainable initiatives including climate change policies, fair-trade and solar and ceiling insulation programs has increased the need for the fashion industry to become more environmentally responsible. Globally brands have already started to make changes in their products and supply chains to facilitate this:
- Elite brands such as ‘Gucci’ and ‘Yves Saint Laurent’ as well as sports brand ‘Puma’ have promised to post their environmental profit and loss reports publicly
- ‘Nike’ has adopted waterless dyeing techniques for making clothing
- ‘Levi’s’ has developed greener ways to make and care for denim products
- ‘Timberland’ and ‘The North Face’ are creating products and using manufacturing processes that are more environmentally friendly
- ‘Marks & Spencer’ produced the world’s first carbon-neutral bra and sustainable underwear line
- ‘Patagonia’ uses only organically grown cotton in its clothing line and the entire product line is recyclable through their ‘Common Threads Initiative’
- Groups of clothing labels and retailers are now developing industry standards with the ‘Eco Index Apparel Tool’ and ‘Sustainable Apparel Index’
- The Danish Fashion Institute is promoting sustainably-minded practices through the ‘Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical’ (NICE) project by greening the lifecycle of clothing and creating a best practice guide for sustainable fashion consumption.
- H&M released its ‘Conscious Actions Sustainability Report’ in April 2012, illustrating the progress it has made on ethical commitments. It has also launched two new clothing lines which are produced more sustainably.
Fashion magazines are also starting to promote ethical choices for consumers and one magazine in Australia, ‘Peppermint’ is dedicated to advertising the best in environmentally friendly and handmade design from around the world. Peppermint’s editor Kelley speaks of the issues brands may face when becoming more ethical and eco-friendly;
“Starting any business is a difficult and risky endeavour at the best of times, so when you add all other elements to the mix, like social or environmental ideals the road suddenly becomes a lot bumpier. Sourcing organic materials, connecting with sustainable suppliers or finding fair producers – all of these things take more time and energy, and often, an increased financial investment. Moving away from fashion industry norms is not an easy path to take, though one definitely worth the effort. While most may choose to make small changes, I think any company who strays from the beaten path even a little has a hugely important ripple effect and needs to be commended. We can all help by supporting those ‘going their own way’, and make their weathered journey worth the while.”
Unique initiatives are also taking place, encouraging consumers to think and buy more ethically. Christie’s International held the third annual ‘Green Action: Bid to save the Earth’, in February 2012 in New York. The event raised approximately USD $600,000 for four environmental charities, Oceana, Conservation International, the Central Park Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defence Council. Over two hundred businesses paticipated in the ‘Shop Your Values Week’ in April 2012 in New York. The week encourages consumers to support local businesses providing sustainable and ethical products and offer incentives for participants.
- Bourne, L, 2012, Is Fashion Ready to go Green?, Forbes, 13 April 2012
- Edie, 2012, H&M aims for sustainable ‘fast-fashion’, Edie, viewed 11 April 2012
- Ethikus, 2012, About Us, Ethikus, viewed 11 April 2012
- Guevarra, L, 2012, Can clothing companies make sustainability trendy?, GreenBiz, viewed 11 April 2012
- Kelley, 2012, ‘We did it Our Way’, Peppermint, Autumn 2012, pp.7