The impact of the textile industry on the world

Reading time 8 minutes

The consequences and examples of the environmental impact of the textile industry is much broader than what you will (re) discover in this post. But These elements had on me the effect of a bomb, that’s why Greeny Bird Dress exists. Determined and full of convictions, I want to shake up the fashion industry : empower consumers, allow brands and brands to offer eco-friendly products, fight harmful thoughts and fast-fashion. After years of experience in the fashion sector, years of ressearch and information, I draw an alarming observation of the impact of textiles on the environnement…

A climate emergency 

Today, textiles are the second most polluting industrial sector in the world (after oil, ahead of the automobile). Many fatal and irreversible environmental consequences, such as the disappearance of the Aral Sea, due to the overconsumption of water to water cotton fields : 

Dry lakes, polluted rivers (70% of the rivers in China are polluted because of the textile industry) and changing colors, whole villages sick, populations forced to live with masks permanently. 

Today, global warming and the annula consumption of global resources are causing panic. In total, the textile industry consumes 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources each year, such as petroleum for synthetic fibres, fertilizers for cotton and chemicals for coloring and processing textiles. Not to mention the 93 billion cubic meters of water needed for the manufacturing process. 

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Human disasters 

The textile idustry is the largest employer in the world, with 23.6 million people (Figures : 2015). The reality is that we don’t really know how many people work in that sector, but it could be five to ten times that number. Deplorable conditions with employees held hostage until the production is finished. You find it hard to believe? Watch this report, available for free on netflix : 

I continue with examples that seem far from our reality :

– Very low wages 

– No leave, and expelled or replaced if you are sick

– Children sleeping in factories- Handling of chemicals without protection (gloves, shoes, masks)- No social security cover – Prohibition of stokes or trade unions- Factory managers who call on unaudited subcontractors (to satisfy the demand of contractors, who are increasingly violent on prices, etc), “ghost” factories, etc.

Factories collapsing with the workers inside, while these same workers had protested in the street, because they knew that the building was threatening to collapse at any moment. The head of the plants forcing them back to work, these are dead. Thousands of people die every year from this industry. On the human level, populations are contaminated, increase in infant mortality rate, cancers, anemia, infertility, physical and mental malformations. 

Here are the most frequently encountered cases in China & India/ Bangladesh 

(source: IFM)

China : 

– Work of adolescents- Forced labour- Prohibition of association and collective bargaining 

– Health and safety conditions not complied with (lack of protection of workers in case of use of chemicals or dangerous machinery) – Double/ Triple accounting : work time not respected, non payment of overtime 

– Discrimination 

– Corruption 

India / Bangladesh :

– Health and safety at work- Safety conditions not met (example : building safety)

– Hygiene conditions not met

– Child labour- Working time and unpaid overtime 

– Discrimination 

– Corruption 

Is it a cause, or a global issue ? 

Consumers : there is another way to buy
Brands and Brands : There are other ways to design your collections 

A change in consumption : 

Today, the impact of the textile industry is revealed to the general public. A lot of reports, investigations, videos are shooting on social networks to denounce this industry. (The undersides of our t-shirts : Cash Investigation). According to IFM sources and Ethnicity studies :  59% of respondents preferred to ” buy clothing made in France” (in the interest of job preservation) and 50% of them sought to “boycott clothing made in distant countries”. ( rejecting the idea of child labour). 

Consumers are becoming aware and want to take action. Information platforms such as SlowWeAre are emerging and there is a real enthusiasm for ethical fashion, and traceability on production methods. The market is in transition at all levels and demand is growing. Consumers are demanding transparency, on the labels of clothing (made in and also on the consequences of its manufacture on the environment. 

But then, why doesn’t the offer reach the consumer ? 

Because all the big fast fashion brands have a street presence, are very inexpensive and attract many consumers who are not aware of the reverse of the decor. 

Fashion and sustainable development : A necessity difficult to apply, with an imperative : offer a seductive product 

An emerging supply of ethical products 

Fair trade, ethical trade, responsible fashion … Niche brands that generally rely on organic and/or social and/or national or European supplies : VejaLes racines du cielValentine GauthierDeux filles en filsRoseannaFreitag… Which combine the difficulties of creating a brand with specific supply constraints and a desire for transparency. Here are some examples applied by these brands :

– Ethical sourcing

– Recycled organic cotton 

– Recycling 

– Made in France 

Role of ethical sourcing 

Today’s world has become shifting, fast, open and unstable. Borders move Boundaries change, information is overabundant, multiple and sometimes contradictory signs. Ha asks his actors to interact, to move, to be different and creative, to constantly reinvent themselves. 

Ethical sourcing is a possible differentiating factor which is one the elements of the “basic contract” in terms of consumption. All my work of sourcing, consists in finding new textiles and materials that will allow the creators to design a fashion fairer for all, taking into account the environmental and social criteria and highlighting the design of their products, their components and their achievements. 

Sources :

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