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Paris, Milan, New York—The biggest fashion houses take center stage in the coming weeks. And when the buzz starts, the fashion industry will race to take the couture collections from the runways to the more affordable racks of retailers. But in the sprint to deliver what many consider ‘disposable’ clothes, organizations are failing on multiple fronts. Our newest eBook goes behind the fashion scene to explore one serious supply chain risk: forced labor.
Fast Fashion on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda
According to an article on the World Economic Forum website, “Entire business models are built on the premise of ‘fast fashion,’ providing clothes cheaply and quickly to consumers through shorter fashion cycles.” But the disposable nature of the clothes and the speed at which products go to market leads to negative economic, environmental and social impacts. Here are three examples:
More than $400 billion worth of clothing is thrown away annually. We’re not talking about shirts that are in shreds, either. Rather, it is clothing that is “discarded prematurely” because it’s no longer fashionable.
Take all those clothes that are discarded prematurely. In one year, says the article, people throw away enough clothing to fill Sydney Harbor. That’s nearly 83 billion kilograms of unwanted (but still useable) garments. Moreover, fast fashion production is notoriously hard on natural resources. The jeans and t-shirt you’re wearing contribute as much greenhouse gases as driving a car 80 miles and use enough water to meet one person’s drinking needs for 2.5 years.
Short fashion cycles mean that workers are often forced to work long hours for little to no pay to meet production targets. Often this work is outsourced to third-party facilities in countries with inadequate worker protections, leading to higher incidence of forced and child labor, as well as unsafe working conditions. As we noted in our coverage of this year’s World Economic Forum, corporate social responsibility (CSR) featured heavily in Davos.
Maybe it’s time for this industry to become participants in the CSR trend instead of racing to deliver the next fad in fashion.