It's time to take responsibility

The sustainability scene in our industry is growing every day. That is fundamentally good! It is good that many people and many entrepreneurs realise that the garment industry worldwide is in a dead end. And it is good that the number of people thinking about how to make it better is growing every day. It is also good that an increasing number of bloggers, journalists and filmmakers are raising the issue of the ills of our industry.

Nevertheless: I have to get rid of it once: I can no longer stand the mendacity. I am disgusted by the flimsy arguments and hypocritical measures that are used in our industry to try to create a sustainable image. Let's put on a green coat, the stupid consumer will believe us!

But it is not enough to "only do photo shoots in daylight" to save electricity for the lamps. Nor is it enough to place a design studio next to the manufacturing plant to shorten distances. It also doesn't help if you make up the environmental impact of shipping freight. It is also not enough to rely on simple certificates that can never be checked or to simply not be informed about the origin of the clothing in all the preliminary stages of the industry.

The garment industry is a dirty industry - after petrochemicals, it is the world's number two polluter. And we are not even talking about the devastating social ills of the industry. The Aral Sea is already dry and the rivers in India, China and Southeast Asia are polluted. Not a single fish lives there any more. Toxic dyes are discharged into the rivers completely unfiltered, tons of waste from the textile industry's production halls are dumped into the same rivers. The rivers are nothing but cesspools. Mercury, cadmium, lead, chromium and many other chemicals are causing cancer rates to rise dramatically in the countries affected. These are serious challenges, this is not a game of our western fashion world! We are sinking into the filth that we ourselves create! And on the websites of the hip fashion brands of the western world, they celebrate how sustainable they are.
It is high time that we take these challenges seriously and once and for all stop symbolic actions that in reality only serve the goal of profit optimisation. It is time to act and put an end to the companies whose promises are only lip service.
It is long past time that we take real responsibility - the actors will be exposed.
But how can we do that?
Let's start by thinking about what the word sustainability actually stands for. The term originally comes from forestry. The word originated in an industry that naturally operates over generations. Sustainability here stands for permanence in planting. What I plant today, my children or grandchildren will harvest.
It's the same in the garment industry. The environment we are destroying today, the chemicals we are dumping into the rivers today, these will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren. The children pay the price if we buy cheap today. This is a generational contract. We finally have to think about it.
Here is my advice to the leaders in our industry:
  •  Think about the contribution you want to make to make the industry a little cleaner. What exactly do you want to achieve? How do you want to implement it?
  • Get informed! Learn your entire supply chain. Study it, analyse it. Question where the primary products come from and under what conditions they are produced.
  • Create sustainability departments instead of PR departments. Hire sustainability experts. Hire people who already live their lives according to sustainable criteria in many areas of life. You will learn a lot from them. And you will quickly realise: These people are more important for the future of your company than the marketing department that has been polishing up the sustainability report so far.
  • Be prepared to face great challenges from these experts. Be prepared to completely reverse processes and procedures that you have used and perfected over the past decades. You will have to rethink many procedures and, as a result, completely redesign them.
  • In your design departments, create garments that are meant to have a long life cycle. And think about what can be done with these garments after the hopefully long period of use.
  • Look around at other industries to see how they are dealing with environmental challenges. Look for solutions. And look at the companies that have been acting sustainably for many years. What do they do differently? What mindset do they follow?
  • Be honest with yourself and with your clients. If you haven't reached your goal yet, it doesn't matter. The important thing is that you pursue the goal "sustainably" and don't give up.
  • Avoid shortcuts - they don't work anyway. The path to making our industry sustainable involves many changes that may take time, money, energy and a lot of perseverance. Follow these points, and do so immediately if possible. The industry will only improve sustainably if as many stakeholders as possible strive for change. And on the part of the environment, it is definitely 5 to 12.


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