Where is Fashion Sustainability Heading in 2022?

What goals have been set out for the year ahead, and most importantly how will they be met?

Scarlett Welch
9th May 2022
Image: Instagram @kinsey.h.designs
In the last few years, sustainability has become a huge topic in the fashion industry. From the dreadful working conditions and low wages of the people making our clothes, to the huge levels of CO2 emissions caused by clothes production, the fashion industry certainly has a lot to answer for. But what has really been done to improve this?

The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, producing 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year

The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, producing 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. At COP-26 in November 2021, the UN Fashion Charter made certain promises in the aim of reducing this, with the focus shifting to also include sustainable and fairer working conditions for those in the industry. 

As a result of COP-26, the UN Fashion Charter has pledged to make companies set science-based targets to halve their emissions by 2030, giving these brands 12 months to specify how they are going to do this. This indicates that within the next year, we should be seeing plans of action from big fashion brands. 

Certain brands are also calling for governments to enforce trade policies which encourage the use of more environmentally-friendly materials. Currently, it is often far less cost effective for brands to use more sustainable materials, such as organic cotton. This means that many brands, particularly those which provide cheaper clothing options, tend to choose less sustainable options in materials. The Textile Exchange Group has been established to convince governments to change this. 

COP-26 highlighted the importance of improving working conditions in the fashion industry. The fact that workers are paid such low wages gives companies the option to mass-produce cheap clothing at a low cost to themselves. This in turn means that clothes are a lot cheaper at a consumer level, allowing people to buy far more items at once, leading to the well-known fast fashion problem where these items are discarded as quickly as they are purchased. 

We should not be blaming the consumer for a problem being caused on an industrial level

For a long time, we as consumers have been discouraged from buying from fast fashion brands. However, for some people these are the only options and this is a classic case of blaming the consumer for a problem being caused on an industrial level. A focus of COP-26 and a goal heading into 2022 is improving working conditions and raising wages in an attempt to reduce this problem. However, no concrete promises have been made so far. 

A huge focus-point of sustainability in fashion is reducing the use of fossil fuels. Several pledges were made relating to this, however there was a concerning change in wording in the UN’s final agreement. Largely pushed by India and China, two of the most prominent nations in fashion production, the phrase ‘phasing out fossil fuels’ was changed to ‘phasing down’. 

It is clear that the vast majority of the population is keen to make fashion more sustainable as we head into 2022. Pledges have certainly been made to support this, yet it seems as though governments and companies are still not willing to make the drastic changes required. So, will fashion become more sustainable this year? Only time will tell.

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