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Sustainable Fashion? How companies provide sustainability information to consumers

The new report “Sustainable Fashion? How companies provide sustainability information to consumers” by HEJSupport touches upon gaps in the current provision of product sustainability information to consumers, with the aim of suggesting a way forward which makes consumers a driving force able to shape the future of sustainable textiles.

The report provides recommendations for business, policy makers and consumers.

The sustainability of the fashion industry largely depends on the work of regulators and product manufacturers, including their suppliers. But very often the work they do is not enough, and it is here that consumers have a meaningful role to play by encouraging both industry and regulators to ensure product sustainability.

HEJSupport analysed the provision of product sustainability information from various brands, using the UN-Environment and ITC 2017 Guidelines for Providing Product Sustainability Information. For the first time the Guidelines function as analysing tool for a whole industry sector.

The analysis shows that although textile and fashion brands invested in more sustainable production, there is a lack of communication with consumers. Their needs in terms of sustainability are being largely ingnored. Some of the analysed labels show lack of relevance, reliability, clarity and transparency.

The textile and fashion industries are among the largest industries in the world. Their supply-chain includes agriculture, manufacturing, and processing, as well as fabric care, use, recycling and disposal. Nearly all countries are involved in manufacturing of textile products, though the actual involve ment can vary from textile and product design and development of manufacturing technologies, to actual production and shipping to numerous locations. However, all countries face the growing problem of textile waste management, which is directly linked to unsustainable textile production and use.

Being among the most polluting industries, fashion and textile industries must explore strategies geared towards improving sustainability in order to minimize pollution, improve the safety of workers, eliminate sexual abuse, and ensure the right of consumers to make informed choices. The future of sustainable textiles and fashion largely depends on the industry’s ability to reduce the use of resources such as land, water and oil, and to ensure products are reused and recycled to minimize waste.

Other aspects of sustainability that the textile and fashion industries focus on include protection of the environment and human health, occupational safety, gender equity and women’s empowerment, as well as meeting the demand of consumers for eco-friendly textile products.