According to a new report by Greenpeace Germany titled Self-regulation: a Fashion Fairytale, the global fashion industry will not solve its devastating influence on the climate without legislation.
According to a study of 29 leading brands, including Nike, Adidas, H&M, G-Star, and Primark, voluntary commitments are insufficient to slow the growing volumes of textiles and change the destructive trajectory of fast fashion, with the greatest impacts felt in countries of the Global South, where clothes are manufactured and dumped.
Viola Woghlemuth, consumption campaigner at Greenpeace Germany said that instead of giving their young customers hope by taking bold, transparent action to change the fast fashion system, fashion brands are more often than not marketing "sustainability" initiatives that fall short, or worse, resorting to greenwashing with claims of recycled and recyclable clothing. This window treatment gives the impression that something is being done and encourages guilt-free overconsumption.
Greenpeace Germany conducted an unannounced check to see if brands are still serious about their commitments ten years after launching its Detox My Fashion campaign, which secured pledges from 29 leading brands to eliminate hazardous chemicals and some also committing to tackle over-production by "slowing the flow and closing the loop."
The progress on removing hazardous chemicals has been generally positive and game-changing, demonstrating that concerted action and supply chain transparency are the keys to industry transformation, but this success is restricted to the businesses that are taking action. In contrast, the report finds few examples of stopping the flow of new garments, and while good indicators from some, such as Benneton and Esprit, the majority of efforts are focused on recycling, which remains a myth rather than a reality.
To address this issue, Greenpeace is urging regulators to expand on the Detox committed businesses' concept of corporate supply chain accountability and apply it to the whole fashion industry. According to the report, this would not only replicate the Detox hazardous chemical achievements in the remaining 85% of the fashion industry, but it could also serve as a foundation for addressing other major issues in the industry, such as greenhouse gas emissions in the fast-fashion supply chain, which are the third-largest source of fashion's significant impact on the climate, after food and construction supply chains.
Wohlgemuth added that corporate supply chain responsibility should not be a "nice to have," but rather the cornerstone of EU legislation aimed at bringing the fashion industry's effects within environmental limitations - and avoiding catastrophic outcomes. Without binding legislation, global fashion brands will continue to tinker at the edges of the damaging fast fashion business model, even as the volume of clothing produced and consumed grows. The system must be altered. Fast fashion will never be environmentally friendly.
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