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The Impact of Fast Fashion on Our Sustainable Lifestyles

Sustainable Lifestyle of Fast Fashion

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02.08.2024

The Impact of Fast Fashion on our Sustainable Lifestyle

Research developed by Maelys Tarouilly, Margaux Veyne, Pietro Abenante, and Terry Gestin from the ESCP Business School’s Bachelor Programme

Fast fashion refers to the rapid production and distribution of trendy clothing at affordable prices. It allows consumers to stay up-to-date with the latest styles and frequently update their wardrobes.

Its key characteristics are:

  • Quick Turnaround: Brands like Zara and H&M introduce new collections frequently, sometimes weekly.
  • Affordability: Low prices attract shoppers, encouraging them to buy more.

However, as we all sensed, unfortunately, fast fashion has significant environmental consequences.

According to the UN, the consequences of this industry for the planet and the people:

  • It’s responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, 20% of global wastewater, and 24% of insecticides.
  • It also contributes to the depletion of natural resources, such as water, cotton, and oil.
  • It generates a lot of waste, as millions of tons of clothing end up in landfills or incinerators every year.

In addition, the social impact of fast fashion is alarming. It relies on the exploitation of workers in developing countries, who often face low wages, long hours, unsafe conditions, and human rights violations.

In certain cases, it also affects the health and well-being of consumers, who may experience stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction from the pressure to keep up with the trends and buy more than they need.

Value Chain

All of the above means that the sustainable fast fashion is an intriguing paradox. Let’s delve into its complexities and the significance of its value chain:

Value Chain

Resource Demands:

  • Water Usage: Clothing production consumes substantial water resources.
  • Chemical Usage: The process involves chemicals harmful to the environment.
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Emission levels are high due to production.

Labor Issues:

  • Underpaid Workers: Reports reveal underpayment and unsafe conditions for factory workers.
  • Material Handling Risks: Cotton and leather processing poses health hazards.
  • Waste Management: Disposal: Consumers discard unfashionable or worn-out garments, leading to excessive waste.

Importance of Addressing These Challenges:

  • Environmental responsibility: Brands must reduce their environmental footprint
  • Ethical labour practices: Ensure fair wages and safe working conditions
  • Circular economy: Encourage recycling, upcycling and reuse of materials
  • Transparency: Technologies such as AI and blockchain enable traceability throughout the value chain, from sourcing raw materials to shipping and reuse

Sustainable fast fashion requires a holistic approach that balances style, affordability, and environmental and social responsibility. By transforming the value chain, fashion companies can contribute to a more sustainable industry.

Analysed Brands

C&A

In general C&A is a company that hasn’t reached perfect environmental and ethical Standards. However, they are acknowledging that change is needed and immediately.

In this case, they have upcoming goals and challenges to become an optimal choice for environmentally conscious customers.

H&M

Overall, we can say H&M is a company that understands the great challenges of the Industry it operates in.

It has taken concrete measures to curtail its environmental impact and it has made the good treatment of its employees a priority.

However, it needs to speed up its research on new materials that could further reduce H&M’s impact on the planet.

Asos

So how sustainable and responsible is Asos? Overall, Asos gets a “Not Excellent Enough” rating.

Implementing policies to reduce carbon emissions by banning fur and other animal-based products, and providing a more conscientious selection, some progress has been made. But there is still a lot that can be done. For Asos to receive a higher grade, it must make progress in every category.

Zara

Zara has achieved significant success in the fashion industry, becoming one of the world’s largest fashion retailers. Some of the key results that have contributed to it success include:

  • Strong financial performance: Zara’s parent company, Inditex, reported revenues of €28.3billion in2020, with Zara accounting for a significant portion of this.
  • Large global presence: Zara operates over 2,000 stores in 96 countries, making it one of the most widely recognized fashion brands in the world.
  • Fast fashion approach: Zara’s ability to quickly respond to changing fashion trends and bring new designs to the market in a matter of weeks has been a key driver of its success.
  • Efficient value chain: Zara’s vertically integrated system, which includes in-house design, production, and logistics capabilities, allows it to maintain high levels of efficiency and quality throughout its operations.
  • Strong brand image: Zara has created a strong brand image through its unique in-store experience, focus on customer service, and marketing efforts, which has helped to drive customer loyalty and brand recognition.

Final Thoughts

We need to rethink our relationship with fashion and adopt more conscious and responsible practices.

We can do this by buying less, choosing quality over quantity, supporting ethical brands, donating or recycling our old clothes, and educating ourselves and others about its impact.

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sources:

Image:

  • CottonBro, Pexels

 

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