NGOs call on the next Government to radically transform the Global Fashion Industry

World Vision Ireland and the Irish Environmental Network have joined forces with the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) to call on the next government to radically transform the fashion industry. The coalition group is calling on Irish and EU leaders to take urgent action and put restrictions on the global fast fashion industry, to make it more eco-friendly. The coalition said that more clothing is being produced, consumed, and thrown away than ever before, putting immense pressure on our planet and the industry’s 60 million-strong global workforce.

“The textile industry is one of the biggest polluters and is rife with exploitation. Our new Wardrobe Change campaign is calling for a radical transformation to how clothes are made, sold, worn, and re-worn,” explained Patrizia Heidegger, Director of Global Policies and Sustainability at the EEB. “This year, EU leaders have a chance to back an ambitious Textile Strategy based on fairness and sustainability. It’s time to move fashion away from the pursuit of ever-more economic growth which is incompatible with stopping further environmental and climate breakdown, and reducing global inequalities.”

With the hugely damaging global growth of ‘fast fashion’, clothing production has doubled from 2000 to 2014, with more than 150 billion garments now produced annually, and 73% of all textiles ending up in landfill or incineration.

In December, new research from the European Environment Agency highlighted that after food, housing and transport, textiles are the fourth largest cause of environmental pressure. Textiles also cause the second highest pressure on land use and are the fifth largest contributor to carbon emissions from household consumption.

EU environment ministers have called on the European Commission to come up with a strategy to move the sector away from unsustainable production and consumption patterns, and the sector was flagged as a priority in Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s flagship European Green Deal. The Commission is also expected to put forward proposals for textiles in its New Circular Economy Action Plan, expected to be published on the 4th March.

The UN states that the textile sector is responsible for between 8 and 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and it estimates that, by 2050, fashion could be responsible for a quarter of all carbon emissions.

Stephane Arditi, Policy Manager for the Circular Economy at the EEB, said: “Today’s fashion system makes overconsumption far too easy which is generating huge levels of waste. But we can’t recycle our way out of the problem – products need to be used for longer and waste prevented in the first place. Just as they acted on single-use plastics, governments need to urgently act to make options such as repairing, renting, sharing, and swapping more accessible. It’s essential to ensure better information is available about what our clothes are made of and develop design requirements for toxic-free materials that can be used again and again.”

“The fast fashion industry is responsible for high carbon emissions, water pollution, and large amounts of landfill waste.” Niall McLoughlin, CEO of World Vision Ireland, said. “The ‘fast fashion’ industry produces around 1 billion clothing garments annually. Production at this scale is pushing our natural systems to the absolute limit. The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year. People can reduce their carbon footprint by buying less, using what’s already in their wardrobes, and only shopping at charity shops – it’s a great way to support wonderful causes, and buying garments that are already made, instead of contributing to a supply chain that has very damaging environmental effects. We also need governmental support at a national and European level, to radically transform the textile industry. Real climate action means changing our methods of production and consumption by reassessing how we make, use, and reuse textiles.”

In 2019, Sweden made headlines by cancelling fashion week, and from Buy Nothing Day, Second Hand September, to Extinction Rebellion people all over the world stood up for slower fashion.

Patrizia Heidegger, Director of Global Policies and Sustainability at the EEB, said: “Those on the frontline of the textile industry’s waste and pollution are the millions of unrepresented workers who make the clothes sold around the world. Given that 193 governments have committed to achieving responsible consumption and production globally as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all companies must be required to take steps to prevent and mitigate human rights abuses and environmental destruction along their supply chains.”

In 2020, the organisations behind the ‘Wardrobe Change’ campaign will carry out a host of awareness raising and advocacy activities across the EU. Information about the Wardrobe Change campaign activities will be updated here. For more information follow the hashtag #WardrobeChange on Twitter.

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