Fashion industry eyes green future

While fashion's constant hunger for next season's collections may appear to fly in the face of the concept of sustainability, some within the industry are waking up to the need for a new look for the rag trade.

The influential Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) met in Warwickshire this week for its annual conference and the concerns which might more usually trouble the CSR departments of big business were high on the agenda.

Vociferous campaigning by activists meant the industry was among the first to feel the consumer impacts of poorly thought-through sourcing and the damage a company’s reputation can suffer when accused of unethical practices such as producing its clothing in sweat shops.

But now it is, according to the chair of the conference Julie King, becoming aware of the environmental dimension of its activities and recognises that sustainability is a crucial issue for consumers.

“Fast, affordable fashion is no longer enough and sustainability is generating some crucial long-term business considerations,” said Ms King, head of fashion at De Montfort University.

“As clothing imports into the UK continue to escalate consumers are becoming increasingly aware that global sourcing is having a huge impact on the environment.”

Fashion miles, like food miles, are becoming an increasingly important issue for the industry and this was addressed by the conference along with the environmental cost of a ‘throw away’ garment mentality.

The sustainability of high street shopping compared with internet trading and the long term viability of the UK’s import-based industry in both economic and environmental context were also considered.

“Retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and consumers all have a vested interest in finding out if we really can have it all,” said Ms King.

“And if so for how long, and at what cost.”

Sam Bond

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