Greenpeace recently launched a campaign calling on Spain-based clothing giant Zara to ‘detox’ its harmful methods of making product; thrusting eco-fashion, a growing movement towards sustainable fashion since the early millennium, back into the spotlight.
“Eco” fashion focuses not only on environmental impact, but also the impact of textile development on factory workers who create garments using toxic chemicals and often under loosely guarded international employment conditions.
While American sales of fair-trade-certified products rose 75% in 2011, major retail conglomerates including Abercrombie & Fitch, Forever 21, Quiksilver and Walmart were recently named in a study funded from the U.S. Department of State as brands “fueling modern day slavery through negligence.” (Apparel Industry Trends: From Farm to Factory)
Not for Sale, a California-based nonprofit working to abolish human trafficking and forced labor across the globe, sourced the study: Apparel Industry Trends: From Farm to Factory, using publicly available and self-reported data to rank 300 apparel brands.
Among those who received an ‘F’ grade for supporting their Workers’ Rights were: Lacoste, Sketchers, Aramark, Forever 21, Quiksilver, Walmart, and Armor Holdings, Inc., a manufacturer of military, law enforcement and personnel safety equipment.
Nike and Puma received mention of good practice for a move they were involved in during 2011, when a handful of major sportswear brands signed a freedom of association protocol with Indonesian trade unions and suppliers to uphold the rights of the hundreds of thousands of workers in their Indonesian supply chains.
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“The environmental impact of fashion is something that needs to concern us all. What’s clear is that fashion’s environmental footprint at the moment is unsustainable. The evidence is overwhelming. For example, the British clothing and textiles sector alone currently produces around 3.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, two million tons of waste, and 70 million tons of waste water per year—with 1.5 million tons yearly of unwanted clothing and textiles ultimately ending up in a landfill. This means that we each throw away an average of 30 kilos a year.”
–Excerpt from Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution (2012, New Internationalist) by Safia Minney, via Ecouterre “Ask A Designer: Why Does Fair-Trade Fashion Matter?”