The world of fashion, whether that be clothes, jewellery, or lifestyle, has a complicated history with sustainable practices. According to Bloomberg, fashion is responsible for 10% of global carbon dioxide input. More than international flights and shipping combined.
Furthermore, many of the clothes that people have the opportunity to wear, due to competitive prices, are only made possible by unethical labour practices and exploitation. With the rise of environmentally progressive public values, these factors can no longer be ignored. And so a new way is forming, in which fashion and luxury is sustainable, ethical, and trend-setting.
Changing the story
Jewellery is one of the problematic links in the unsustainable fashion story. The metals and gems used to make stunning pieces are often sourced from environmentally dubious sources, and make use of unethical labour. The times are changing, though. As Vogue magazine highlights, sustainable jewellery is now top of the agenda for many of the biggest companies, from Pandora to Cartier.
However, more can be done, according to industry experts. Tim Ingle, co-founder and director of ethical jewellery specialists Ingle & Rhode says “The jewellery industry has come a long way in the last 20 years, with things like the No Dirty Gold campaign and the launch of Fairtrade gold and similar ethical sourcing programmes, and we have seen significant growth in demand for lab grown diamonds in recent years. However, we still have a long way to go unfortunately.”
“There are still significant issues around environmental damage caused by irresponsible mining practices both for precious metals and gemstones. And, like every other industry, we need to transition rapidly towards sustainable energy sources and away from fossil fuel.”
Improving rights for all
With more sustainable environmental practices must come ethical use of labour. As this analysis by Boise State University highlights, fashion, both high and fast, is built on the backs of poorly paid workers in South Asia. The working conditions they are forced to endure have been responsible for tragedy. As the 2013 Rana Plaza, Bangladesh crash showed.
There is a new way; many brands are now committed to working with communities globally to ensure a fair wage is paid and safe working conditions are imparted. Consumers must ensure they use these options to make a difference.
Setting the trend?
Gentle pushes in the right direction are important. But more can always be done. Arguably, huge changes won’t be made until the government and private business consortiums are willing to get behind society and make them. According to The Guardian, the UK government is now committed to punishing firms that ‘greenwash’. That is, putting in disingenuous schemes to present a progressive face when their actual business practices are anything but.
With public interest, real change can come. However, the ultimate power is in the hand of the consumer. By purchasing fashion and jewellery from sustainable sources, businesses can no longer ignore their value. And that’ll be to the benefit of everyone.