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Ethical fashion requires a mindset change

"The latest sustainability data predicts that by 2030, the industry’s water consumption will grow by 50 per cent to 118 billion cubic metres carbon footprint will increase to 2,791 tons; the amount of waste it creates will hit 148 tons. While significant efforts are being made by leading apparel companies, they don’t seem to be making much of a change at least just yet. The reason behind this is the insatiable appetite for fashion where people are buying more and more clothes."

 

 

Ethical fashion requires a mindset change

 

The latest sustainability data predicts that by 2030, the industry’s water consumption will grow by 50 per cent to 118 billion cubic metres carbon footprint will increase to 2,791 tons; the amount of waste it creates will hit 148 tons. While significant efforts are being made by leading apparel companies, they don’t seem to be making much of a change at least just yet. The reason behind this is the insatiable appetite for fashion where people are buying more and more clothes. Since 2012, there has been a 10 per cent increase in the amount of clothes purchased in the UK alone. And not only are British consumers buying more, their clothing gets discarded quicker as they chase the latest fashion trends. It is estimated there is more than £30bn of clothing sitting in wardrobes across the UK that haven’t been used for over 12 months.

Ethical fashion requires a mindset

 

Behind this data seems to be the role of fast fashion. Owing to which people keep changing their clothing preferences faster. To circumvent this issue, academicians predict going ahead, slow fashion will become the norm, with consumers wearing classically styled garments that last for 10 years. This will minimise the need to make new purchases of the latest fashion fad, therefore reducing impacts.

Behavioural science at play

Earlier, questionnaires and surveys, used to predict the growth of ethical consumption, were good for identifying purchase intention but poor for predicting actual behaviour. Surveys are reliant on the participant being truthful and knowledgeable about their behaviour, but that’s also debatable. Rational models of consumption are based on the idea that individuals make choices that balance costs and benefits. An ethical consumer will make rational judgements about purchases on the best outcome in terms of costs and benefits for them and the environment. But consumption is quite irrational. Purchase decisions are more likely to be driven by desires linked to pleasure and excitement. These hedonistic subconscious forces create a less rational approach to consumption, which ultimately reduces the influence of rational thoughts about ethics and the environmental consequences of consumers’ purchases.

Ethical campaigning

By creating awareness and information dissemination, consumers can overcome these subconscious forces of fun and excitement. But evidence shows this does little to increase ethical behaviour. In fact, more information tends to reduce the influence of ethical issues due to the complexity of the issues. The real issue is can the industry find sustainable solutions that actually move ever closer to a disposable fashion industry. Instead of trying to appeal to the consumers’ supposed ethical streak, perhaps brands should aim to use new technology and business models to design products that can be recycled or re-engineered into new styles with minimal use of virgin materials, water, energy and chemicals. It is a major technical and commercial challenge but shifting to such a consumer-driven model may open up new opportunities for business, as well as becoming more sustainable.

 
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