ARTS / CULTURE & LEISURE
Cost of fashion
Fashion industry failing to
Published: Mar 25, 2021 04:18 PM
Clothes are inspected during the In goop Health Summit San Francisco 2019 at Craneway Pavilion on November 16, 2019 in Richmond, California. Photo: AFP

Clothes are inspected during the In goop Health Summit San Francisco 2019 at Craneway Pavilion on November 16, 2019 in Richmond, California. Photo: AFP

Shoppers browsing through secondhand clothes at a pop-up swap event in Singapore on January 16. Photo: AFP

Shoppers browsing through secondhand clothes at a pop-up swap event in Singapore on January 16. Photo: AFP

The inaugural Sustainability Index by the Business of Fashion magazine, the first to offer direct comparisons between the industry's top firms, found they were often falling far short of their ambitious declarations on going green.

"The global economy has 10 years to avoid catastrophic climate change and an urgent duty to improve the welfare of the workers who make it tick," said the report.

"Time is running out and simply stating an ambition to change is no longer good enough."

It graded the biggest 15 fashion companies across six areas: transparency, emissions, water, and chemicals, materials, workers' rights and waste.?

Not one company scored more than 50 out of 100, with Swiss firm Richemont and US firm Under Armor faring worst with scores of just 14 and nine overall. ?

The best performers were French luxury house Kering and Nike, who scored 49 and 47 respectively.

"Many of fashion's biggest companies still don't know or don't disclose where their products come from, and the further down the supply chain you go, the more opaque things become," the report said.?

"That enables exploitation and human rights abuses and creates difficulties measuring the industry's environmental impact."

'Just not working'

A 2019 study by the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion found that fashion was the second-biggest consumer of water, and responsible for eight-to-10 percent of global carbon emissions.

The new Sustainability Index said many firms had targets to reduce emissions but little information on how they were faring.

Three firms - Richemont, Under Armour, and LVMH - had not set emissions targets at all, it said.?

Fewer than half were found to have clear goals on reducing the use of water and hazardous chemicals, and only four had a time-bound target to replace oil-based polyester - the most commonly-used fabric in the world - with recycled alternatives.?

The worst results were on the issue of waste, with the report citing a recent Ellen MacArthur Foundation study that found 40 million tones of textiles were sent to landfills or incinerated every year.?

"Companies are talking more about circularity than they are embracing it," it said.?

Scores on workers' rights were also dismal.

"We have been stuck with the current state of play for more than 10 years and the discourse is still way ahead of the action," Anannya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance was quoted as saying in the report.

Nonetheless, the report sought a constructive tone, saying it was not designed to chastise or praise individual companies but to encourage innovation.?

"Environmental sustainability is bigger than any one brand, supplier, or retailer. We all have to work together," wrote another of the authors, Edwin Keh, of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel.


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