Even the most fashion-averse will participate in the consumption of garments throughout their life. So, when we talk about the impact the fashion industry is having on our environment, it's an opportunity for everyone to do better.
An estimated 100 billion garments are produced globally each year and 33 percent of that total will end up in landfill within the first year of purchase. While these figures are troubling, it highlights the importance of ethical consumption. That is, being more thoughtful with your sartorial purchases. Asking yourself questions like who makes your clothes (are they receiving a liveable wage?) and how they're constructed (natural fibres? chemicals? does the process involve large amounts of water? will they last?) will help in the fight against climate change.
Christian Aid and Baptist World Aid join forces each year to address Australia's role in fashion waste production. In their Australian Ethical Consumer Report, they take a temperature check on the attitudes and feelings Australians have towards ethical fashion. As, naturally, it is only when you identify the problem that you can work on a solution.
What is the report?
The Australian Ethical Consumer Report is an initiative of Christian Aid and Baptist World Aid in collaboration with social research company McCrindle. The findings were released earlier this week. By drawing from national data, the organisations pinpoint the hurdles Australians face in an effort to be more sustainable and ethical.
What were the findings?
"Almost three in four Australians believe ethical fashion and related issues of human rights and environmental sustainability are important, with three in five consumers becoming more aware of the impacts of their purchases over the past three years," said Peter Keegan, Director of Advocacy at Baptist World Aid.
What's hopeful is that 87 percent of people indicated they want to be more conscious in the way they consume fashion. But there's a large discrepancy between those who action that desire, with only 47 percent purchasing from ethical and sustainable brands. According to the report, consumers struggle to determine whether a brand is ethical. This comes as a surprise to nobody especially with marketing ploys like green-washing being so prevalent.
The report also indicates a generational difference. Gen-Z women are the most conscious of the ramifications of their purchases. With millenial women not far behind.
How can we do better?
This is a lot to digest and it's completely fine to be overwhelmed. Thankfully, the report is accompanied by an online quiz that allows us to identify what kind of consumers we are. It's perfectly geared towards our Myers-Briggs-personality-type sensibilities. You could be a Practical Purchaser, Intentional Individualist, Socially-Minded Shopper or a Conscious Consumer. Your result is measured against the five 'A's of ethical fashion', attitude, agency, awareness, action and advocacy.
Another way you can help is by lobbying brands and corporations to adjust their business models. Whether that is through transparency, changing their manufacturing or treating their employees better, it's all part of the bigger picture. It's important not to redirect responsibility from institutions and corporations onto individuals. Especially as they hold the most power and resources and as such, should use it for good.
You can read the report and more at the Baptist World Aid website.