First Business News Portal in English from Nepal
KATHMANDU: Fashion is a global industry worth $2.5 trillion dollars, which employs around 60 million people , and is said to be one of the world’s most polluting industries. It’s an immense industry that includes: garments, footwear, jewelry and cosmetics. The invention of the mechanical loom is considered the start of the first industrial revolution where the textile industry was the first industry to use modern production methods. If we look at the fashion industry, half of them run based on desire, status, and identity and explains why clothing has historically been a presentation of personal status. The other half runs on the more practical concepts of production and natural resources. Modern Day Slavery is an endemic part of fashion’s business, and a lack of transparency and traceability across fashion supply chains is a major challenge.
Sustainability concepts emerged in 1960’s as people began to see the negative consequences on workers’ health and on the environment because of industrial production methods. The origin of its concept itself comes from the report “OUR COMMON FUTURE” also known as the BRUNTLAND REPORT which was published in 1987. Here sustainable development is defined as development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to also meet their needs. Initially the concept was focused on environmental sustainability; saving water, not polluting, those types of things. But as people started using it become broader and now when we think of social sustainability as well as environmental sustainability. We can explore social, economic, ecological and cultural to better understand sustainability and fashion.
The Social Agenda sits within the context where all humans are born with equal, inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms. Globalisation of fashion businesses has created an international supply chain and has employed a number of people to different roles and locations. Different activities are performed which require human skills, however recognition and reward of the contribution often perpetuates staggering social inequality, cases of negligence, violence and oppression, with women being the most at risk.
The Economic Agenda sits within the context of planetary boundaries as the safe operating space for humanity and equality through all humans being born with equal, inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms. If we look at the global economic systems, they are reliant on the need of business to have a minimum growth in financial profit of 2-3% a year, any less is deemed to be a failure. Fashion businesses also operate into this term. Few of them succeed to thrive in these terms, yet they often fail in the context of planetary boundaries and human equality.
The Ecological Agenda sits within the context of planetary boundaries as the safe operating space for humanity. With the knowledge of how human activity is damaging earth, our shared home, fashion business needs to consider how its business of designing, making, buying and communicating is carried out within this safe operating space.
The Cultural Agenda sits within the context where all humans are born with equal, inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms and recognition of planetary boundaries as the safe operating space for humanity. Fashion’s cultural considerations have seen great shifts over recent decades.
Considered in parallel with long held beliefs through historical understandings, the term now accounts for a disparate collection of garments, designed, made, bought and communicated to increasing audiences, generating increasing sales and decreasing longevity.
These issues relate to both the industrial and personal activities of fashion with consideration to environmental, social, cultural and economic agenda.
1) Climate Change
The current level of CO2 in the atmosphere already exceeds the safe threshold value and continues to increase. If this issue is not tackled now, sea levels will continue to rise, many places will experience droughts, and there will be more frequent extreme weather events, increasing the number of people displaced.
2) Water Stress
More than 1 billion people currently lack access to clean water, whilst the fashion industry consumes water in growing fibers, production processes and in garment care. It can take 2700 liters of water to make one cotton t-shirt, which alone could provide up to 3 years drinking water for one person.
3) Hazardous Chemicals and Pollution
The fashion industry is one of the largest users of chemicals and in turn is responsible for high levels of water and air pollution, which is hazardous to our ecosystems and human health. Textile processing currently accounts for around 20% of water pollution, whilst through the pro duction of synthetic fibers, nitrous oxide emissions are released into the air, which are 310 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.
4) Land Use and Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the foundation for a healthy planet. Fashion is directly linked to habitat loss and a decline in biodiversity through land use. Areas of forested land have been cleared for cotton cultivation, livestock raising and cellulosic fibers made from wood, whilst livestock mismanagement has also led to degradation of fertile land.
5) Diminishing Resources
The fashion industry relies on many natural and human resources which are finite or diminishing. The production, transport and use of fashion is almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels, while hand-based skills and crafts from all over the world are increasingly disappearing due to faster and cheaper production options.
6) Consumption and Waste
Since2000, clothing manufacturing has doubled worldwide and yet the average British or European person holds their clothing products for around half as long. The vast majority of discarded clothing globally ends up in landfills or is incinerated, with just 20% being processed for reuse or recycling at present.
7) Modern Day Slavery
Modern Slavery still exists today in the forms of forced labor, people trafficking and child exploitation. Victims of Modern Slavery are unable to leave their situation because they are subject to threats, violence, punishment, coercion or deception.
The current level and pace of the fashion industry comprises the wellbeing of workers, communities, wearers, animals and the environment. Over half of workers in fashion are not paid the minimum wage and in most producing countries this is still half of what can be considered a living wage. This is linked to an increasing speed, fueled by marketing messages which pressure women and men to look, feel and shop in a particular way.
Mom’s Store Nepal is a social enterprise that provides affordable clothes for new parents following sustainability practices with ease of access. It encourages people to reuse, recycle and introduce new products through upcycling, helping used clothes to bring into the circular economy.
Humanity is consuming natural resources faster than they can be replenished. It would take 1.7 Earths to sustain current global rates of consumption as per international research organization Global Footprint Network. The linear economy, based on the manufacture, consumption, and disposal of basic products following the ‘take-make-dispose’ plan has become a public concern in recent years due to the result of resource-intensive production processes and the increase in the amount of waste sent to landfill. Textile production consumes large amounts of water and energy and often utilizes toxic chemicals that pollute the environment and is considered as one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas (GHG). The disposal of unwanted textiles also adversely affects the environment. We can make sustainable choices to reduce the impact of our wardrobe.
COVID-19 has hardly hit the economy and exacerbated hardships for low-income parents. In Nepal, 25.2% of people live below the national poverty line (Poverty: Nepal, 2020) and the rate of fertility is 1.92 children per woman (Nepal – Fertility Rate, Total (births Per Woman) – 1960-2018 Data | 2020 Forecast, 2020). There are parents who can raise their children(s) providing all the basic needs but for few, it’s quite difficult. There are some households/moms who can’t afford to buy baby clothes but must have access to affordable neat and hygienic baby clothes. Most do not wash and dry by washing machines so it takes time to dry clothes. On the other hand, there are some parents who have clothes which are not much used as babies grow so quickly and become unfit for them, but still in good condition. The wastage that’s created by used clothes is ginormous. Clothes can also be reused in a creative way through upcycling supporting environmental value. Besides minimizing the waste, it also reduces the needs for production and helps in creating jobs in local communities.
Moms with lost jobs and low income families were panicked by the frequent need of the clothes for their growing babies during the peak time of COVID 19 crisis. The situation was further aggravated by limited availability and price hike in the clothes in the markets. In such a situation, we, a young bunch of volunteers, have come up with an initiative, named Mom’s Store Nepal (MSN) to support the needy moms by creating a public group in different social media platforms where moms having their babies preloved and spare clothes could donate or sell at a reasonable price so that the needy ones could access it easily. MSN has been operated by a group of volunteers that has been represented by 7 youth residing in different parts of the country, undertaking different responsibilities such as developing networks and personal relation, creating social media posts, overseeing technical aspects of social media and website, dealing with clients, content creation and so forth. MSN is a social enterprise that follows and promotes sustainable practices.
Different initiatives have been taken to make the development sustainable. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 shared values and global goals set out by the United Nations, and have been adopted by countries to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved by the year 2030, and for the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part; governments, the private sector, civil society and people like yourselves.
Mom’s Store Nepal has set up a process where people buy and sell pre-loved clothes/toys within minimal price. It is also conducting webinar programs and events to educate people about the importance of sustainable practices such as recycling and upcycling, and are also rewarding people who have made contributions to recycling by donating clothes. The activities that are performed by Mom’s Store Nepal are as follows:
● Provides affordable clothing service to the people through mom-store’s Nepal, a social enterprise that follows sustainable practices.
● Conduct programs related to reuse, repurpose and recycling to protect the planet by reducing waste.
● Introduced innovative products from waste through upcycling and bring waste into a circular economy.
From collecting clothes to making it final usable. It goes through a series of steps to bring preloved clothes into the circular economy. Mom’s Store Nepal has set up a process where people can calculate their fashion footprint usage, buy, sell and donate preloved clothes, and has also introduced new sustainable clothes. It is also conducting an awareness program to make fashion footprints sustainable.
Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than just addressing fashion textiles or products. It comprises addressing the whole system of fashion. This means dealing with interdependent social, cultural, ecological, and financial systems.Sustainability is about the thriving of nature and people. Humans are ingenious and have demonstrated throughout humankind that necessity is the mother of invention. With this in mind, we need to learn about and apply ingenuity for sustainability.
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