Impact of Fashion
100 hands touch a garment before it lands in the customer’s hands.
The fashion supply chain is a lengthy process and impacts the lives of every single person involved in it. This is how it generally works:
raw fibre ➠ farming ➠ fabric production ➠ patternmaking ➠ cutting ➠ sewing ➠ quality checking ➠ merchandising ➠ product delivery 🎉
One of most important stages within the supply chain is the fabric production process because it has a big environmental and social impact. Since information on the impact for each raw material was not readily available, we had to do a lot of research to find the answers. We wanted to know this in order to find out which fabrics were good, and which fabrics were not so good. The graph below shows our findings. The impact is broken down into five categories, based on what it takes to produce one garment:
Wondering what that tall blue bar is? Well, that represents the 2,500 litres of water required to make one cotton shirt using the conventional method.
■ Not shown in the graph are synthetic fabrics, like acrylic, polyester & nylon. We didn't want to entertain the idea of using these fabrics because they are a form of plastic. The production of these fabrics also require non-renewable resources and pollutes the environment.
■ The fashion industry emits 10% of global carbon emissions – that’s more emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
■ With the world population estimated to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050, Our ability to supply the growing demand for food, fibre, and fuel, while minimising environmental impact, hinges on our ability to produce more on less land.
■ By 2025, the United Nation estimates that 30% of the world’s population residing in 50 countries will face water shortage. We only have 2.5% of the world’s water freshwater to drink.
■ Even though cotton is a compostable material, producing it through the conventional method is labour intensive and uses a lot of water. That's why we chose organic.
■ The fashion industry is one of the top 3 water wasting industries, discharging over 2.5 billion tons of wastewater every year. This is a major polluter, especially for developing countries where most textiles are made.
■ Animals are used as source materials for textiles. Most commonly used are sheep, silkworms and cows. The process of turning raw materials into textiles often involves land clearance for agriculture and industrial pollution which impacts animal biodiversity. One shirt made from silk requires 1,378 silkworms (one of the many reasons why we don't use silk).
We talk about sustainability a lot, but what does it really mean?
Now that's a pretty good definition. Sustainability can many things to different people, but one thing we can all agree on is that the way the industry is currently doing 'fashion' is not sustainable, which is why the United Nations have stepped in to provide businesses, organisations and individuals with a framework to work towards. It's called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we only have until 2030 to achieve it.
We believe in making a positive impact, so we've integrated the SDGs into how we do business.
Find out how ►
*The report above was constructed from multiple data sources. If the source states data which ranges between two figures, then the average is taken. The values are approximate based on each category's impact to produce one garment. The unit of measurement is relevant to each category. The best way to compare a material against another material is by looking at the value within the same category so that it's 'apples to apples'. For example, producing a shirt made of wool requires 16 m2 of land, whereas organic cotton only requires 0.4 m2 of land - this means organic cotton uses less land which is better for the environment!
UNFCCC: The production of 1 kilo of cotton requires 3,000 liters of water and 1 kilo of chemicals, creating 16 kilos of CO2 and half a kilo of waste.
C & A: Organic cotton produces 46% fewer carbon emissions than conventional.
Better Meets Reality: The amount of usable silk in each cocoon is small, and about 2500 silkworms are required to produce a pound of raw silk.
Kering: organic cotton uses on avg. 45% less land than conventional.
About Organic Cotton: organic cotton used 71% less water than conventional.
The Guardian: An estimated 17 to 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment and an estimated 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used throughout the world to turn raw materials into textiles, many of which will be released into freshwater sources.
Premium Jane: An estimated 300-500 liters of water to produce 1kg of dry hemp matter, of which 30% can be used for fiber production.
Good On You: For hemp, harsh chemical herbicides aren’t necessary. Hemp also naturally reduces pests, so no pesticides are needed. Amazingly it also returns 60-70% of the nutrients it takes from the soil.
Peta: In New Zealand, methane emissions from enteric fermentation, coming mostly from sheep, make up more than 90 percent of the nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions.
O'Reilly Learning: 66.6 kg of total farm production and 15 kg of wool were produced per hectare.
Peta: Wool production gobbles up precious resources and leads to deforestation. Environmentalists are increasingly highlighting the negative impact of sheep farming on the landscape. Sheep “dip,” which is a toxic chemical used to rid sheep of parasites, presents disposal problems and can harm the environment. A Scottish study of 795 sheep-dip facilities found that 40 percent presented a pollution risk.
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