Clothes are seen as necessities, and with affordable trendy outfits available at every corner in your typical shopping mall, it is almost unimaginable to think about giving any of them up. However, the reality is such that the issue of pollution wrought upon by the fast fashion industry has been prevalent for long.
I. FAST FASHION: WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT
The term ‘fast fashion’ would instinctively bring up brands like UNIQLO, H&M and Zara in our brains. You are not wrong. Fast fashion suggests that clothing collections and products, in general, change quickly. Instead of the standard four season collections, fast fashion companies have approximately 52 seasons in one year. These companies base their business models on low-cost clothing collections which emulate high-cost luxury fashion trends. They also place emphasis on rapid prototyping, efficient transportation and delivery, and ‘floor ready’ merchandise. With all these elements taken into view, it is no surprise that the main attraction of fast fashion companies is the availability and affordability of their garments. Of course, to sustain this appeal, many fast fashion companies resort to outsourcing production to countries with low labour and production costs, such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China and more. Companies like Zara have resorted to outsourcing at least 13 percent of their manufacturing to China and Turkey in order to suppress overhead costs.
With the allure of affordable yet trendy outfits, consumers are often suborned by the fast fashion industry. As such, consumers are now primed to browse fast fashion stores every three weeks or so in search of new styles. Evidently so, fast fashion has risen the stakes of embracing obsolescence as a primary goal, more than any other industry in the world. This form of transient fashion - low quality outfits with high aesthetic appeal, has led to the global increase of textile purchase by consumers high and low. In the year 2000, global clothing sales were worth US$1 trillion, with a third of sales in Western Europe, a third in Northern America and a quarter in Asia. Since 2011 the apparel industry has been growing 4.78% per year and by the year 2020 it estimated that that the global sales of apparel will reach $1.65 trillion US dollars.
Therefore, it is vividly apparent that the fast fashion industry has taken the world by storm. This prevailing grip of fast fashion on the global fashion market bears a looming threat to the ecological balance of Mother Earth.
Due to the complexity of fast fashion pollution, for the purpose of this article the authors shall introduce the environmental impacts of this issue, discuss the law and policies in place in international organisations, selected countries and major fast fashion brands, and suggest ways to pull the brakes on fast fashion by way of sustainability and climate justice. At this juncture, it is important to note that Malaysia does not have legislations and policies which comprehensively regulate the fast fashion industry in our country.
II. THE BLOTS OF THE FAST FASHION INDUSTRY: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
When we think of clothes, the term ‘pollution’ does not necessarily come to mind. Understandably so, for clothes are seen as necessities, and with affordable trendy outfits available at every corner in your typical shopping mall, it is almost unimaginable to think about giving any of them up. However, the reality is such that the issue of pollution wrought upon by the fast fashion industry has been prevalent for long. This wonderous consumer-friendly lifestyle where high fashion is no longer exclusive drags along with its rapid success dirty laundry: toxic chemical pollution.
The World Bank estimates that globally 20% of all water pollution is created during the runoff processes of textile dyeing and the rinsing of natural fabrics. This estimate does not include the main processes in nature fiber treatment: mercerising and bleaching. More than 1900 chemicals are used in the production of clothing, 165 of which the EU classifies as hazardous to health or the environment. The World Bank also identified 72 toxic elements that are emitted during the manufacturing of textile, 30 of which cannot be treated in a purification process. Due to the exponential increase in the demand of man-made fibres, the manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics have been periodically emitting volatile organic compounds, particulate matters, and acid gases which can cause or aggravate respiratory diseases. Textile dyeing results in additional hazards as untreated wastewater from dyes are often discharged into local water systems, releasing heavy metals and other toxicants that can adversely impact the health of animals in addition to nearby residents. Cotton, natural as it is, has a significant environmental footprint; it accounts for a quarter of all pesticides used in the United States. Other than that, it also accounts for more than 43% of all fibres used for clothes on the EU market. Such pervasive use of cotton is worrying considering that it requires huge quantities of land, water, fertilisers and pesticides.
Aside from the environmental impacts caused by the processing of cloth and textile, the trouble does not end there. Beside the production phase, the pollution of the fast fashion industry even permeates beyond the consumption of such textiles. According to the National Solid Waste Management Department (‘NSWMD’), Malaysia is producing an estimated 8.4 million tons of waste per year. Textile waste constitutes 4% of the total waste, which is equivalent to about 1,000 metric tons of textile waste per day and the number is continuously increasing. Such textile waste would then clog rivers, greenways and parks, thus creating another potential for additional environmental health hazards, especially in low-income countries which lack a robust municipal waste system.
The Joint Research Centre in 2006 quoted estimates by the Textile Recycling Association that only between 15% and 20% of the textiles disposed of were collected for reuse or recycling in 2005. Even if garments are recycled at a greater rate, only less than one percent of all materials that are used in clothing is recycled back into clothing. This shows a worrying lack of technology in sorting collected clothing, separating blended fibres, separating fibres from chemicals and establishing which chemicals were used in the production in the first place. To add on to this issue, most clothes are still being recycled mechanically (cut up or shredded) instead of being recycled into virgin fibre. This is due to the inadequacy of technology to deal with this matter, thus resulting in recycled fibres losing 75% of their quality and value.
‘What have these bleak statistics got to do with us?’ one may ask. ‘We do not produce textiles; we merely accept what was made available for us. It is not our fault fast fashion is affordable,’ another may protest. However, the field of fashion merchandising that studies the promotion of eco-fashion - the production of clothes by methods not harmful to the environment, reveals that apparel consumers are unaware of the significant ecological damage their purchases create. Transparency issues range all the way through the production chain of clothes, where each link has become apt at hiding uncomfortable truths about its ecological impact. As a result, consumers are left to think that they are not guilty of promulgating the problems even though they are aware of fast fashion pollution. Surprisingly, youths, who at this age have developed a deep interest in environmental issues, still fall prey to the lure of affordable, trendy clothing items. They may even see themselves as helping reduce negative environmental impacts by handing out cash to companies which deal with man-made fabrics rather than animal-based materials. In actuality, when textile companies take no care in the production of affordable fabric, the abuse of the environment is as, if not more, great. In short, consumers do not see fast fashion outcomes as polluting goods.
III. THE GLOBAL HAMMER OF LAW AND POLICY: REGULATING FAST FASHION
We shall now look into international organisations and selected countries which have made it their mission to steer the direction of fast fashion to a more desirable state. We will also observe companies which have, since the emergence of this issue, kept Mother Earth in mind in going about their business routines. Hopefully, Malaysia will soon choose to emulate and adopt the relevant legislative actions and adopt policies in the effort to protect our environment.
A. International Organisations
1. The United Nations
The United Nations have developed its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, drawing up 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 associated targets which are integrated and indivisible. It is a plan of action for ‘people, planet and prosperity’. Recognising the cruciality of sustainable urban development, the SDGs aim to reduce the negative impacts of urban activities and of chemicals which are hazardous for human health and the environment. This includes fast fashion. Some of these SDGs, when met, would help slow down the impact of fast fashion on the road to sustainability:
The UN recognises that private business activity, investment and innovation are the key to productivity, inclusive economic growth and job creation. It aims to foster a dynamic and well-functioning business sector, while protecting the environmental and health standards in accordance with the relevant international standards and agreements as well as other ongoing initiatives in this regard, such as key multilateral environmental agreements for the parties to those agreement. On 14 March 2019, the United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion was launched in the UN Environment Assembly to address the damage of fast fashion. It seeks to ‘halt the environmentally and socially destructive practices of fashion, and instead harness the industry as a driver for improving the world’s ecosystem.’
The United Nations Environment Programme also encourages efforts to innovate sustainable apparel business innovation by awarding the UN Environmental prizes, such as the Young Champion of the Earth prize. Winners of these prizes receive USD15,000 seed funding, intensive training, and tailored mentorship to help them bring their environmental ideas to life. In 2017 November, Canadian fashion designer Kaya Dorey of NOVEL SUPPLY CO. was the recipient of such prize for introducing to market her unique apparel business, which delivers sustainable urban street style for a generation wanting to end the wasteful consumerism of fast fashion.
2. The European Union
In the European Union (EU), significant efforts have already been taken to combat the plaguing issue of fast fashion pollution.
On a legalistic approach, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations enacted in 2007 require clothing manufacturers to identify and quantify the chemicals used in their products. Such a requirement, which may extend to informing the consumers of the chemicals used, will be helpful towards conscious consumers who wish to assist in the effort towards sustainable fashion. Next, the EU Parliament also adopted a Circular Economy Package (CEP) that will ensure textiles are collected separately in all Member States by 2025. Under the CEP, 4 legislative proposals on waste was included. They are (i) the Waste Framework Directive, (ii) the Landfill Directive, (iii) the Packaging Directive and (iv) the Directives on end-of life vehicles, batteries and waste electrical and electronic equipment. Under the Waste Directive, 50% of general municipal waste (including textiles) must be reused and recycled by 2025. The Landfill Directive also requires Member States to reduce the share of municipal waste landfilled to 10% by 2035. Other than the CEP, the EU has harmonised legislation on the names of fibres and textile products to assist consumers in making more sustainable decisions. The currently binding Textile Regulation of 2011 lays down rules for labelling and marking of all textile products, including an obligation to state the full fibre composition of textile products at all stages of industrial processing and commercial distribution, and rules on textile fibre names.
As for executive policies, the imposition of the Öko-Tex Standard 100, a testing and certification program established in 1992, would be helpful in providing the textile industry a uniform guidance for the potential harm of substances in raw materials. Such standard will help textile manufacturers in identifying materials which will be detrimental to the environment in the long run. The EU also introduced the EU Ecolabel for clothing and textiles. It establishes ecological criteria guaranteeing limited use of substances harmful to health and environment, reduction in water and air pollution, as well as criteria for extending the lifetime of clothes (resistance to shrinking during washing and drying and colour resistance to perspiration, washing, wet and dry rubbing and light exposure).
On the 27th of April 2017, the EU Parliament also called on the Commission to promote the use of ecological and sustainably managed raw materials and the re-use and recycling of garments and textiles within the EU. It called on the EU, the Member States and businesses to increase funding for research and development, including in the field of clothes recycling. It also called for the Commission to propose binding legislation on due diligence obligations for supply chains in the garment sector and stressed the right of consumers to be informed on the sustainability, compliance with human rights and environmental credentials of garment industry products.
B. Conscionable Countries
1. The People’s Republic of China
China has been stepping up its campaign against pollution on all fronts ever since 2014, such as the Water Ten Plan. Many laws in relation to environmental protection are revised and revamped, which will in turn point to the consolidation of textile, apparel and footwear manufacturing in China. With the introduction of the ‘Made in China 2025’ vision, manufacturers and brands face similar upstream challenges with raw material production due to the national paradigm shift to creating high-value products.
For many years, China’s sorely lacking environmental protection framework paved a path to the rise of many industries, including fast fashion. The Ministry of Environmental Protection’s State of Environment Report 2015 clearly showed China’s worsening quality of environment, with the 5th consecutive year of worsening groundwater quality, and the heavy pollution suffered by China’s seven major rivers. With such depressing statistics, it was clear that textiles is a clear target to combat pollution. By ranking as the 3rd highest industry for both water pollution and water use, China had to crack down on textile manufacturing in order to salvage its environmental quality.
On the legal front, China has finally amended the Environmental Protection Law. Generally speaking, the amendment has emboldened governmental authorities with more teeth to punish polluters. Unlimited daily fines, company shutdowns and criminal punishments are exemplary measures to deter the public from polluting the environment. Not only that, in the event of a fraudulent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the assessors will be held jointly liable with the enterprise responsible for construction. Government officials are also obliged to report on any achievement of environmental targets by State Council, local governments and other responsible officials. As a result, by the end of 2015, more than RMB 4.25 billion worth of fines were imposed, more than 20,000 companies were shut down, and 89,000 companies had to conduct rectification actions. With the empowerment of the law, the courts naturally saw more action as well. A total of 37,216 first instance cases of environmental crimes were initiated. The Supreme Court also recently upheld a record penalty of RMB 160 million against 6 companies responsible of discharging acid waste into two rivers. Two environmental groups also became the first NGOs in China to win a lawsuit against polluters in December 2015. All in all, China’s empowerment of laws on environmental protection has seen great success.
On the plane of executive policies, many key policies were introduced by the State Council of China. One of the main policies which will affect the fast fashion industry greatly is the Water Pollution Prevention & Control Action Plan released in April 2015. Stringent industrial standards, mandatory equipment upgrade, increased compliance standards and tighter compliance deadlines would mean that more than 90% of factories risk shutdown. The Action Plan also introduced centralised treatment of water to effectively curtail the issue of untreated wastewater. China’s State Council also introduced the Circular Economy Development Strategies and Action Plan, which obligates the textile industry to be circular. This means fashion’s entire value chain needs to close the loop; use less resources and chemicals plus more recycling and integration of waste. Cotton, the main ingredient in the textile industry, is also facing the whip from the Chinese government. China is reportedly on the move to de-prioritise growing cotton due to its highly thirsty nature, leaving India as the world’s largest producer of this commodity. Another alarm for the fast fashion industry would be the exclusion of textile in the ‘Made in China 2025’ vision. By excluding this industry, it could very much mean that China is divesting from this industry due to its shrinking contribution to the national GDP, and for its hefty environmental price tag.
2. The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom’s trouble with the fast fashion industry is no different than other countries. Around 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in household bins every year with around 80% of this incinerated and 20% sent to landfill. To address this issue, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) launched an inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry on June 2018, surveying 16 leading UK fashion retailers and their respective efforts in reducing the environmental impact brought upon by their businesses.
In its report, the EAC called on the UK Government to make fashion retailers accountable for the textile waste generated by their companies. Among its many recommendations, the EAC first recommended that a mandatory environmental target must be set for fashion retailers with a turnover of more than $36 million. It also recommended an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme to reduce textile waste with a one-penny charge per garment on producers. The EAC also recommended rewards for companies that design products with lower environmental impacts, and penalising those who fail to do so.
Every year France purchases 600,000 metric tons of clothing, fabric, and shoes, yet only a third is recycled and used again. In light of this, France’s new Circular Economy Roadmap has included new regulations that would prohibit apparel brands and retailers from discarding or incinerating unsold garments. Instead, the regulations now require them to donate such textiles and clothing to recycling organisations or charities for re-use.
C. Fast Fashion Companies
1. Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M)
An apparel icon found in almost every major shopping outlet; the bold red logo of H&M is a familiar sight to many. As part of the fast fashion industry, it has been a contributor to the pollution. However, the decision-makers have gone to great lengths to mitigate the damage of its production line onto the environment. Have they done enough?
The CEO of this Swedish multinational clothing-retail company H&M, Karl-Johan Persson stated that ‘adding sustainability value to [their] products’ is one of the elements to strengthen their customer offering. He believed that it ‘simply makes business sense’. Following the materialisation of issues regarding the environment, H&M developed and implemented seven sustainability commitments, some of which focused on reducing the harm of fast fashion towards the environment:
a. To provide fashion for conscious customers by using sustainable cotton and support innovation in other sustainable fibers, and promoting sustainable leather as well as introduce conscientious was and care instructions to reduce pollution.
Since 2013, H&M has made details of their suppliers public, and has now fulfilled the requirements of the transparency pledge. This year, H&M and H&M Home are integrating a new transparency tool in their online stores in order to enable consumers to trace most of the products all the way to their manufacturers. This initiative is to allow consumers to make more conscious choices, thus closing the gap between each stage and leaving little room for uncomfortable truths to stay hidden. Following their membership in the Better Cotton initiative, 11.4% of the cotton used by the company come from more sustainable sources where their products include 7.8% organic cotton and 3.6% better cotton.
b. To reduce H&M’s total greenhouse gas emissions by choosing and promoting environmentally conscious transportation, and promoting energy efficiency among its suppliers. In 2018, H&M reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 7% compared to 2017 by the improvement of energy efficiency in their stores. On this note, H&M wished to ultimately source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2040.
c. To reduce, reuse and recycle used goods, closing the loop on textile fibers and encouraging customers to reuse or recycle bags, and further promotes innovation and use of recycled fabrics.
In adherence to this commitment, water-based adhesives and recycled polyester were used. H&M invested in a fashion future where textile fibres are utilised to their fullest without creating unnecessary waste. They have collaborated and supported innovative companies such as Worn Again, Renewcell, TreeToTextile, Thread, Moral Fiber and Colorifix. H&M also offered a recycling programme where its customers can return clothes from any brand in-store for the company to reuse the materials to produce new clothes. As at 2018, 57% of all materials the company uses to make its products are recycled or other sustainably sourced materials. According to the H&M Sustainability Report 2018, they have collected 20,649 tonnes of textiles for reuse and recycling through their garment collecting initiative, making it 16% more than the previous year and represents the equivalent of 103 million t-shirts.
d. To use natural resources responsibly by collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund (‘WWF’) in implementing a water stewardship strategy, which is the use of water in a way that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial.
As a result, H&M’s engagement in the water stewardship partnership has led to 3 million litres of rainwater harvested in its distribution centres and stores, and a recently developed Water Roadmap for its supply chains. (H&M Report 2018) Its catalog paper is now 100% EU flower certified.
Inditex, a Spanish multinational clothing company where the popular Zara is a flagship brand, has its own initiatives of ensuring that the environment does not get directly hit by its business model. It has aligned their Right to Wear strategy with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and adopted a firm commitment to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Intidex has been committed to achieve Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals. In 2017, The List and Ready to Manufacture are launched to aid the brands under Intidex, including Zara, to move towards the goal. The Join Life garments are also manufactured and supplied with the company’s promotion of the sustainable and efficient energy sources. 45% of the energy consumption at the Intidex headquarters, logistic centres and stores comes from renewable sources. It has also collaborated with Better Cotton Initiative in 2017 among other movements.
Much like the aforementioned companies, the Join Life programme has Zara helping consumers extend the lifespan of their clothes. Unlike the previous two, Zara provides for the collection of clothes from their customers’ homes in addition to in-store collection. However, such services are not available at branches in Malaysia, and only those residing in Spain have the chance to have their clothes collected from their homes by Zara employees.
UNIQLO, a Japanese clothing company does not fit the usual fast fashion model, in the sense that its Japanese style stays in trend for more than one season, making it more enduring. Wanting to maximise the utility of unwanted garments, has its own recycling initiative where it collects clothes from customers to distribute the wearable items to refugees, disaster victims and others in need worldwide with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other NGOs and partners. The unwearable items, on the other hand, are recycled into refuse paper and plastic fuel pellets (RPF) for fuel. This repair and reuse programme is different from that of the previous two giants of the fast fashion industry. In 2017, it has collected close to 13 million items since its ‘10 Million Ways to HELP’ global recycling campaign launched in 2015.
It has also joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition — as have H&M and Intidex — where the Higg Facility Environmental Module is used to assess environmental impacts of the companies’ activities. It made a public commitment to reduce its carbon emission per unit floor space in Japan UNIQLO stores by 10% by 2020, and reports its direct and indirect carbon emissions. It has been doing this by making the transition to LED lighting in stores, and are currently on track to meet their reduction target.
It would seem like these companies have been doing a lot. Significant milestones have also contributed to the overall achievements for the fast fashion industry to slow the negative environmental impacts down. However, critics pointed out that reusing cheap materials only enhances pollution, where they promote short-term habits of single-use clothing. It was reported that for H&M, their sustainable range accounts for only 5% of their overall products. UNIQLO is no better, in that they are not as transparent about their environmental impact as compared to H&M.
IV. THE FUTURE OF FASHION: SUSTAINABILITY AND CLIMATE JUSTICE
To ensure sustainability in the fashion industry, major changes must be made in order to effectuate tangible change.
A key step towards sustainable fashion is to mandate sustainability reports from fashion companies. By making it mandatory to issue such reports with proper and effective supervision, the government and the consumers will gain a transparent view of the operations of a company in relation to sustainability. By ensuring transparency, there will be a push among companies to do better, and will inspire a relationship of trust and confidence between consumers and the companies. As long as companies attempt to shut the lid on such information, the consumers will not be enlightened and will only wedge greater distrust with the brand. In addition, transparency will drive companies to continue to improve their productions system to become more eco-friendly.
In the designing phase, the designer of clothings must give sufficient thought in the recycling possibilities of the clothing by looking into the material used. Sustainable materials must be preferred over materials which include plastic and other pollutants. Materials which are cultivated through unsustainable agriculture or processing must be avoided in order to minimise the impact on the environment. Aside from the materials selected, proper thought must also be given in the timelessness of the garment’s design. In order to properly combat the trend of fast fashion, designers should attempt to create fashion designs which could stand the test of time, and not merely succumb to the whims and fancies of current trends. Producing clothes that are in style only short period of time will increase waste and unnecessary spending. By designing ahead of themselves, the sustainability of the design would be exponentially increased.
Another step forward would be necessitating manufacturing information on tags. Such tags would disclose crucial manufacturing information such as the country the garment was made, the materials utilised, the amount of energy expended, the international standards it complied with, and etc. This is to allow consumers to have a better understanding on the garments they are purchasing, and allow them to make a conscious choice in their purchase.
Companies must also be obligated to regulate their production overseas. Although companies nowadays frequently outsource their production to cut overhead costs, such corner cutting should not come at the expense of the environment. Regional organisations and local governments must work hand in hand to combat lax in environmental protection and enforce stricter regulations on textile companies. Even if such an effort is not to be seen from the government, companies must take it upon themselves to regulate their third-party suppliers and manufacturers in order to ensure ethical production of apparels and garments. There is no point in just regulating their own companies when the sources of materials and products they conduct business with still continue with unsustainable practices.
Implementation of the Sustainability Supply Chain Model (SSCM) must also be encouraged for all fashion companies. Through this, waste from the textile industry may be significantly reduced through the SSCM, thus reducing the magnitude of pollution that must be battled. Companies will also be able to invent more efficient pathways of production and stop unsustainable manufacturing practices. This might even increase output for these companies and at the same time, ensue commitment to ethical practices.
Fashion companies should also shorten the turnover rate from the runway to the stores. Most fashion companies now churn out new clothes once every two weeks, which means that there is an endless stream of new haute couture entering the market at a rapid rate. If this turnover rate can be reduced to a monthly basis, the scale of damage that may be wrought upon by the fast fashion industry can be greatly diminished. By slowing down the rate of producing new clothing lines, the ‘fast’ in fast fashion will no longer be as detrimental as it is now. Slowing down such rates would cut down costs for transportation, and also allow consumers to take the time to invest in pieces that they intend to wear for a long time, instead of a one-night stand. By stemming the rapid influx of new trends in the industry, we would be able to extinguish a big portion of fast fashion pollution.
On the consumer end, it is important to educate buyers on the importance of being conscious of the garments they purchase. Consumers must be informed of the way that they can contribute to reducing the amount of textile waste by pointing them in the direction of recycling centres and thrift shops. Clothes rental services should also be introduced to consumers to reduce impulsive buying behaviour and wastage.
The fast fashion industry has extracted a toll on the environment for far too long. Without supervision and regulation, the fast fashion industry has been able to operate flagrantly without any reparation to the environment and the society affected. Exploiting the lax of environmental policies in low-income countries, fast fashion companies are able to extract billions in profit from low production costs. As the awareness among governments and individuals slowly improve on this particular issue, it is high time that the fashion industry hold themselves accountable for the damage inflicted on the environment, and take steps towards sustainable and ethical means of textile production.
Malaysia must also follow in the footsteps of nations like China and the UK in taking positive regulatory action against fashion companies that cause rampant pollution. By arming our environmental laws with more teeth, as seen in China, companies and individuals across all industries will have to comply with compliance mechanisms specifically catered to redress the woes of pollution in our nation. With empowered laws, the courts will also be able to enforce it with greater effect. On a policy-based approach, Malaysia should also adopt a Circular Economy Model akin to the EU and France to obligate fashion companies to reduce textile waste across all levels of production and consumption. The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy should also be similarly introduced to all fashion conglomerates in Malaysia. With this in place, textile and fashion companies will reduce the output of garments on the market to cut the margin of unsold outfits. Also, any unsold garments will be reused once donated to charitable organisations in the nation.
Although the efforts from large fashion outlets like H&M and UNIQLO are commendable, we must not be complacent. Not only more fashion companies should be involved in similar initiatives, supplier companies which these brands affiliate with should be subjected to similar standards and exercise. By dealing with the issue at its root, only will we be able to curtail pollution effectively. Fashion designers too, should be encouraged to create new designs with sustainable materials. Also, designers should be encouraged to create fashion trends which will stand the test of time instead of having a short shelf life. Companies must realise that they play a crucial role in stemming fast fashion pollution, and spread such awareness to consumers and customers.
All in all, although the fight against fast fashion pollution is a long and windy road, persistence and diligence is key to creating a sustainable fashion landscape for generations to come. Regional organisations, governments and fashion companies must come together to put a stop to the menace that fast fashion has brought onto the environment once and for all.
Written by Iqbal Harith Liang and Corina Robert Mangharam, both third year law students of the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya. Edited by Syafinas Ibrahim.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Malaya Law Review, and the institution it is affiliated with.
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