The fashion industry is flourishing. Can sustainability efforts keep pace?
By Ava Ho | UPS
There’s no doubt that retail is booming, particularly in the fashion industry. Retail sales worldwide reached US$22.492 trillion in 2014.
The global retail market will see steady growth over the next few years, with the apparel, luxury goods, and accessories sector expected to achieve a yearly growth rate in excess of 4 percent. That’s good news. But what is the environmental impact of this growth? And what can be done to mitigate it?
The fashion industry is known for its heavy use of resources, including the considerable consumption of raw materials and fuels throughout the design, production, and distribution process. To put this into context, the World Bank estimates that textile dyeing produces approximately 20 percent of the world’s industrial water pollution.
Rapidly changing seasonal designs and the pressure to keep prices low have given rise to the trend of disposable clothing, aptly labeled “fast fashion.”
According to the Hong Kong Environment Protection Agency, unwanted clothing weighing up to two double-decker buses is sent to landfills in Hong Kong daily; and in China, fashion waste amounts to as much as 26 million tons, as reported by the China Association of Resource Comprehensive Utilization.
Consumers care about the environmental impact. In a study by Nielsen, 55 percent of global online consumers indicated that they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
The propensity to buy socially responsible brands is strongest in Asia-Pacific, compared to North America and Europe. While style and social status matter, another study shows that 73 percent of consumers feel the need to be responsible for contributing towards sustainability.