Fast fashion is relentless. Around the world, an estimated 80 billion new pieces of clothing are consumed each year and the industry contributes more to climate change than aviation and shipping combined. What’s more, the industry is pumping toxic chemicals into the environment, threatening the health of local people, wildlife and potentially even the consumers who end up wearing the clothes.
For example cotton, one of most commonly used materials in fashion, covers just 2% of the world’s farmed land but uses 5% of all pesticides and 14% of all insecticides. Globally, it is estimated that 44% of farmers are accidentally poisoned by pesticides each year, which includes thousands of fatalities.
Fast fashion raises serious questions for social and environmental justice. Fortunately, consumers are beginning to wake up to the impact that their everyday purchases are having and recent research shows they care, with 81% of people preferring to buy products from sustainable brands.
However, as corporations cotton on to this trend, many are engaging in the practice of ‘greenwashing’. This involves deliberately misleading consumers into thinking that the company is cleaning up its act, when the reality is very different. Many are investing far more into glossy green marketing campaigns than actually reducing their impact.
A prime example can be seen in Boohoo’s recent “sustainable” collection with Kourtney Kardashian, a celebrity with an infamously excessive lifestyle.
Boohoo has received much negative attention in recent years for a number of environmental scandals and unethical practices. In 2019, the brand was named by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) as one of the least sustainable fashion brands in the UK, due to its lack of action.
The brand is seemingly attempting to appeal to the more environmentally-conscious customers with this latest collaboration. However, it has received huge backlash online, following criticism of Boohoo’s questionable practices and Kourtney’s high-carbon habits.
Of the 45-piece collection, 41% contain a percentage of recycled fibres, but it is with noting that many of these are made from polyester. Virgin or not, these still shed harmful microplastics and don’t biodegrade. What’s more, the collection is dwarfed by the estimated 40,000 styles sold on the site each year.
Every year, around 300,000 tonnes of textiles waste ends up in household black bins and is sent to landfill or incinerated. Given the notoriously poor quality of fast-fashion clothing, it’s not clear how long items from Boohoo’s new collection will last before they ultimately end up in landfill. In an industry well-known for promoting over-consumption, any new style serves only to fuel the problem of disposable fashion.
To actually make a difference, fashion brands need to be held accountable, re-evaluate their business models and take action at every level of the supply chain. After all, adding the word ‘sustainable’ will never clean up a dirty industry.