How can an industry focused on wants manage to

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may seem paradoxical. How can an industry focused on wants manage to deliver human needs in the long term? While fundamentally we need clothing for pro- tection from variations in the weather (as distinct from fashion ), it is possible to think of a human need for personal communication and that this need has been expressed via our clothing choices over the recorded history of humankind, long before current environmental concerns about the negative impacts of fashion emerged. Issues which challenge the clothing industry today, such as the excess use of limited resources, the pollutants the industry releases and the working conditions within it, are consequences of the modern scale and methods of the industry, so sustainable fashion ought to be possible, if we can decouple it from its current issues. Limited resources are a key challenge to the sustainability of the clothing industry. Cotton is a very water-intensive product, with some analysts estimating that a kilogram of cotton textile demands the use of 8.5 tonnes of water (P fi ster et al. 2009 ). Consequently, the production of cotton is limited by the availability of irri- gation water in producer countries, where it must compete with food and fodder crops. To cope with this limited resource, the key alternative fi lling the demand for fi bre is polyester derived from fossil hydrocarbons (Peters et al. 2014 ). Peak oil may seem like a distant prospect given the rise of the American fracking industry and current depressed oil prices (around USD 40 per barrel), but this leads to another problem, that of pollution. Our increasing reliance on synthetic fi bres raises concerns associated with greenhouse gas emissions in the supply chain. Where waste textiles are combusted, this issue is also present, elsewhere the problem may be limited 2 S. Roos et al.
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land fi ll space or the micro-plastic pollution caused (in part) by the emission of textile fi bres to the environment (Eerkes-Medrano et al. 2015 ). There is also a wide range of other chemical emissions associated with textiles, of which the durable water- proo fi ng chemicals are perhaps the most persistent (Holmquist et al. 2016 ). Working conditions are another challenge for the sustainability of the clothing industry. The globalisation of the clothing industry over the last 30 years has perhaps lifted many people in Asia from poverty, but it has also created concerns about the abuse of labour in countries that do not have strong labour representation. This ranges from overwork, gender discrimination, child labour and (most notori- ously in the case of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh) unsafe working con- ditions. In such cases, the sustainability problem is not connected with the ability of future generations to meet their needs, but with the current generation. A systemic aspect of the problem is that the supply chains are now so globalised and complex that it can be dif fi cult for managers, for example those in a European clothing retailer, to know precisely where the garments they sell are being produced. The
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  • Fall '19
  • Sustainable fashion, Sandra Roos

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