Fast fashion has given birth to a “throw-away” culture and a toxic system of overproduction and consumption. Driven by the need for fashion products to be produced at speed and in line with upcoming trends, there has been a lot of discussion around fast fashion’s impacts. The good news is that in the last few years, the majority of consumers have awakened to the fact that adopting “throw-away” culture is adding to fashion’s excess waste problem. Many have identified it as a phenomenon that thrives and has also created a constant need to shop that can never truly be satisfied.
Although the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world after agriculture, it continues to mass-produce cheap, low-quality garments fated to degrade, after just a few wears, and end up in a landfill. This trend is one reason we need to slow down the vicious cycle of fast fashion. By committing to new standards, devised to bring about greater clarity in fashion’s supply chain, retailers should be able to stop cutting environmental corners to overcome the controversies surrounding fast fashion.
Steering Fast Fashion Down a Less Controversial Path
With fashion companies like Zalando, making it compulsory for the brands they work with to measure how sustainable their business is, it makes sense that the rest of the industry follows. Although some argue that supply chain complexity and industry opacity stand in the way, I have identified five commitments that could help retailers steer fast fashion down a less controversial path.
(1) Detox Your Supply Chain
It is no secret that the industry needs to strive to remove dangerous chemicals from its supply chains. Detoxing from hazardous chemicals includes finding new ways to process leather, discovering innovative methods to dye textiles, and uncovering approaches that lessen the farmers’ exposure to toxic chemicals themselves.
(2) Commit to Transparency
Whether you sign the Transparency Pledge alongside H&M and ASOS or decide to go it alone, you need to know what is happening upstream in the supply chain. This way, you will be able to disclose supply chain information to consumers who demand it. Also, it shows how serious you are about not greenwashing your sustainability efforts.
(3) The Implementation of Vertical Integration
When it comes to meeting demand, some fast fashion brands have adopted a supply chain model called vertical integration. It is an operation that allows them to deliver a wider variety of products on-demand in less time. Some of the advantages of vertical integration in apparel supply chains include tighter process control, improved flexibility, and reduced risk in the supply chain.
(4) Supply Chain Mapping
To map your supply chain successfully, you need to know what your supply chain looks like. It sounds complicated, but it is not, because nowadays there is supply chain transparency software, like the Suuchi GRID to make it all easier. Designed to help businesses achieve traceable, transparent supply chains, the mapping will help you identify risks in your supply chain so you can mitigate those risks.
(5) Investing in The Implementation of Innovative Technologies
To make a positive impact on the industry, fast-fashion retailers need to invest in supply chain management solutions. Committing to the implementation of innovative technologies makes it easier for retailers to spearhead systemic change in the apparel supply chain.
(6) The Conversation of Human Cost
Fast fashion is not only a cost to the environment; but to human life too. This impact is why retailers must commit to conducting an independent review of its supply chain to ensure that no illegal working practices, like dangerous environments and low wages, are taking place at the factories making their garments. The fashion industry should adopt the attitude that all garment workers have the right to safe work conditions, reasonable hours, and wages. It should not be a choice that the industry makes but a fundamental right.
Ignorance Can No Longer Be Bliss
With the cost of fashion continuously putting a strain on natural resources, many experts believe that ignorance can no longer be bliss. Fast fashion should not continue to exploit or ruin people and the planet. The good news is that today’s generation has “grown too clever for mindless consumerism, forcing producers to become more ethical, more inclusive, and more liberal.” It is a shift that continuously puts pressure on the fashion industry to change its whole system by adding sustainable and ethical fashion initiatives. Although change does not happen overnight, transformation can begin with making achievable commitments that could, in the long run, distance retailers from the dark realities of fast fashion.