The Fashion Industry & Sustainability: Waste, Solutions, and Transparency

Early last month during the Netherland fashion week, 55 fashion companies agreed to sign a sustainability covenant promising to hold higher standards regarding sustainability. This movement towards sustainability by the fashion industry has been a long time coming.

Behind the oil industry, fashion is the largest producer of waste byproducts in the world. Much of this is due to entrenched manufacturing methods, resistance to new best practices, and fast fashion. That said, there are forces in place that are pushing fashion towards a more sustainable future.

Many of these forces are coming from foundations and interest groups. One such group is the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The SAC's mission revolves around a suite of self assessment tools, called the Higgs Index, that allow manufacturers to measure and monitor their environmental and social impact.

This tool may not sound significant, but since individual companies aren't accountable to their impact they have no reason to identify or measure their impact. The member companies of the SAC can use this information to collaborate with one another to develop best practices for the industry.

Furthermore, we’ve seen sustainability networks put into place. One of the more popular ones has been the Ethical Fashion Forum, now know as MySource. MySource is a platform that allows businesses in the textile and fashion industries to communicate and set up sustainable supply lines for their goods.

Many of these brands are still quite small in comparison to some of the larger manufacturers, but their clothing is just as fantastic, if not more so! You can see a short list of just some of these companies here.

Unfortunately, much of the work going into fashion sustainability isn't transparent to the consumer. It’s nearly impossible to know what businesses, designers, or products have sustainability in mind without doing research beforehand. That said, keep an eye open for fair trade labels as they denote that they were manufactured in a manner that prioritized sustainability.