Friday, September 5, 2008

Fast fashion findings

An article I found recently brought up some interesting points about garment ethics: Analysis: Do consumer concerns threaten fast fashion?
  1. "In countries like Vietnam or China, worker exploitation isn't hard-wired into how business is conducted. Some businesses might well exploit their workers if they think they can get away with it - but so might businesses in the US or Sweden."

    Absolutely. This makes it even more difficult to know whether a garment is made by an exploited worker or not. Even garments made in Australia may be made by workers who don't receive adequate pay and conditions, usually homeworkers.

  2. "Last-minute changes of mind, or delayed decisions, rarely translate into extended delivery dates: factories are expected to get garments out in time to meet a ship, however often the buyer might have changed the brief. And with greater pressure on time comes pressure on workers, and pressure to use unvetted subcontractors."

    This indicates that the fault may lie mostly with the buyers rather than the factories.
    I hadn't thought of this before. Factories may feel backed into corners by buyers, just as the workers feel backed into corners by the factories. The reason that buyers change their minds so often is probably due to the nature of fast fashion - a fad trend is discarded just as fast as it was introduced.

  3. "So it's easy to assume that the further a garment travels while being made, the more carbon gets emitted... Cambridge University's Institute for Manufacturing published some serious analysis of carbon emissions in apparel manufacturing in late 2006 [1]. It showed that - even for a T-shirt made in China from American cotton, transport to Europe accounted for only 10% of the carbon emissions produced during the garment's life.

    How the consumer washed and dried the T-shirt mattered most; and manufacturing the T-shirt emitted three times as much carbon as transporting it round the world.

    But here's what Cambridge didn't look at. A factory that's heated in winter, air-conditioned in summer, highly automated and operated by people who commute to it by car must dump more carbon than a factory that's properly ventilated, is highly labour-intensive and where workers walk, cycle or get a (very overcrowded) bus to work.

    On this basis a factory in Bangladesh must be better for the planet than a factory in France or South Carolina."

    Something I'll definitely be thinking about. Obviously working conditions should be considered to look at the bigger ethical picture, but from a purely environmental standpoint, this is an interesting theory.

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