Sustainability has become an important concern in every business. It mainly means to protect, sustain and enhance natural and human resources to ensure future of mankind and nature. Sustainability has three dimensions: economic, social and environmental.

And when it comes to the fashion industry, it is always under pressure to attain methods of sustainability. With changing buying behaviour of the consumers, the fast-fashion retailers are gaining a strong foothold in the industry. Clothing companies are making huge sales, revenues and profits thanks to increased buying in fast-fashion segment. However, companies have failed to improve their environmental and social performance. For example, cotton, 30% of the all textile fibre, uses a lot of water, pesticides and fertilisers.

Not only this, fast-fashion brands are facing labour issues in their supply chain due to the requirement of mass production. These issues may be concerning child labour, low wages, or health and safety hazards. The sustainability impact of clothing is not only confined to production and sales, it continues even after the consumer leaves the store. Washing and drying of clothes also cause environmental impact.

Lastly, the disposal of fast-fashion clothing is also a major environmental concern as clothes end-up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being produced.

In order to mitigate the sustainability impact of fast-fashion clothing, companies are now coming together to tackle social and environmental challenges.

Some examples are:

• 22 apparel companies have signed for Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) programme. The idea behind this is that big companies together can bring more visible results rather than working alone against environmental and social issues.

• There is one“better cotton initiative” program, involving 50 retailers and 700 cotton suppliers, which promotes and sets standards for environmental, social, and economic responsibility in cotton production.

•H&M aims to have climate positive value chain by the year 2040 and use 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030.

• Companies are gearing up towards closed loop or circular production model, which means the end product is completely recycled and converted into original fibres and other components that can be recreated again, as good as new. Further companies are also developing standards and practices for designing garments that can be recycled and reused.

• Companies are investing in development of new fibres that will lower the environmental impact during production and garment making.

• Some companies are also trying to change consumers behaviour by organizing campaigns informing consumers on each stage of the purchase process, from buying smarter, to caring for and repairing items, to up cycling or customization and finally responsible disposal. Further, consumers themselves are also getting aware of second hand shopping and selling as it will help in recycling new used clothes and buy new clothes more sustainably.

• Companies are setting higher labour, environmental and corporate social responsibility standards for suppliers and set up mechanisms to make supply chains more transparent. Further, companies also provide suppliers with guidance and resources for meeting labour and environmental standards.

• Use of synthetic fibres and large production of cotton are major requirements of fast fashion. The growth of cotton and disposal of polyester fibres generates major environmental concerns. Huge amounts of toxic chemicals are used in the production of textile crops and after disposal, these chemical and pesticides reaches to the mankind through food chain. Thus, companies have now started opting for sustainable textiles or organic clothing. For example- H&M has already designed and launched Conscious Collection in 2011. Every piece in this collection has been made of environmentally sustainable materials such as organic cotton.

Author's Bio: 

Mayank Mohindra is an author on apparel, fashion, and textile industry.His articles are based on latest apparel industry news, textile news and/or analysis of the dynamics of global apparel trade, and fashion industry.