You have probably already heard multiple times that “fashion is the second most polluting industry, right after oil”…Whether you want to question the numbers or not, the fact is, fashion has an enormous impact on Planet Earth. If — like us at Eva Engines — you want to contribute to a more sustainable fashion, might as well know how the industry is polluting right ? This is why I have summed up various ways in which fashion has an impact on the world — from the “easiest” issue to tackle to the most difficult one.
The first problem of the fashion industry is its overuse of chemicals. It starts as early as fiber cultivation. For example, cotton production uses 3% of the global agricultural land but 16% of all insecticides and 7% of all herbicides are aimed at protecting the cultivations. Plus, the level of phosphorus from fertilizers to our soils exceeds the safe limit by more than 220%.
At another step of the production process, the issue is the huge amount of toxic substances — such as arsenic — used in factories and discharged directly into waterways.
With never-ending cravings for more yield, productivity and clothes, production is made at the expense of our planet.
Exhaustion of natural resources and energy
The same logic applies for energy use : fashion does not really respect natural cycles and resources.
In 2015, fashion used 79 billion cubic meters of freshwater — in other words, the equivalent of 32 million Olympic-size pools. Moreover, fabric treatments such as dyeing, coating, softening are extremely water-demanding.
Regarding forests, these precious resources have been cleared by the fashion industry for cotton cultivation and the deforested areas exceed the safe operating space by 17%.
Lastly, fashion’s CO2 emissions are projected to increase by more than 60% to nearly 2.8 billion tons per year, the equivalent of 230 million passenger vehicles driven for a year. And you should note that, today, fashion already accounts for 10% of all global carbon emissions.
Waste & overconsumption
The root cause of the two previous problems is waste & overconsumption. This is the most complicated issue to resolve since it will only be tackled with a durable and global change of mentality regarding clothing : we need to buy less so that manufacturers produce less (or produce better for that matter). Indeed, in 2015, 92.5 million tons of clothing were wasted : this represents more than 13kg/person. This is an average but we all know that some countries consume way more clothes than others. Plus, the vast majority of our clothing waste ends up in landfills : only 20% of clothing is collected for reuse or recycling.
At Eva Engines, we are a part of the change by allowing fashion brands to drastically reduce their prototype production. It may seem like a tiny action but 7 billion dollars a year are spent on physical samples and 80% end up discarded…We all need to be actors of the future of fashion !
To write this article, I have used the brilliant “Pulse of the Fashion Industry” as a source of information. It is a 187-page report written by the Global Fashion Agenda in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group. In other words : the perfect combo, as the Global Fashion Agenda is an entity anchored around the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and as the Boston Consulting Group is the world’s leader in terms of business strategy advising. The Pulse of the Fashion Industry came out in 2017 and has since been updated every year. The “pulse” is a score rating fashion’s impact on our planet. It was 32 in 2017 and 42 in 2019 : a slow raise but admirable for such an enormous sector. This shows that fashion actors are getting more involved, leaving us very hopeful at Eva Engines ! If you want to discover the details of how we are contributing to this important cause : head over to our website www.evaengines.com.
Pulse of the Fashion Industry by Global Fashion Agenda & Boston Consulting Group : 2017 & 2019 update