The global apparel market is projected to grow in value to 1.8 trillion dollars in 2021. The environmental and social impact of the fashion industry can not be ignored.
The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions which contribute significantly to climate change. It generates huge volumes of greenhouse gases due to the energy used during its production, manufacturing, and the transportation of the millions of garments purchased each year.
1.5 trillion litres of water are used by the global fashion industry each year, making it the second largest consumer of the world's water supply.
The pollution created by microplastics in the oceans causes exponential damage to marine wildlife and habitats.
Many fashion brands use forest-based fabrics such as leather and wood-based cellulose, that can be directly linked to the destruction of rainforests and other vital ecosystems.
In addition to environmental issues, fast fashion raises many ethical concerns. Garments are often made in sweatshops in the developing world, where workers are employed for long hours in unsafe conditions.
In 2013 the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh killed 1,134 garment workers and brought worldwide attention to the conditions in these workplaces and the treatment of their employees.
The immense difficulty in establishing which brands produced at Rana Plaza triggered a call for more transparency in the garment industry.
In 2019 the trade union Unite stated, “in 'high wage countries' clothing producers continually attempt to drive down wages for profit.”
Fast fashion brands were found to be relying on a workforce comprising largely of migrant, temporary workers, who were underpaid and overworked.