The power of the pound
Not a frequently quoted name on most fashion blogs, I love this extract from BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s 2019 letter to CEOs.
“Unnerved by fundamental economic changes and the failure of government to provide lasting solutions, society is increasingly looking to companies, both public and private, to address pressing social and economic issues. These issues range from protecting the environment to retirement to gender and racial inequality, among others. Fueled in part by social media, public pressures on corporations build faster and reach further than ever before.”
Essentially, repeated government failure means that companies have to create the change desperately needed. And by extension, the people that invest in those companies and shop at them are also responsible. This means that we should all be thinking long and hard before spending our money. Not just on clothes, on everything. By spending in that shop, you are essentially endorsing that company’s corporate practices. After all, those shops with poor corporate practice won’t last long if consumers stop shopping there.
The Environmental Audit Committee has just published its report on the sustainability of the fashion industry. It opens simply:
“The way we make, use and throwaway our clothes is unsustainable.”
The report found evidence of forced labour around the world, driving down the cost of clothes for the end consumer. Cheap, but now desperately tarnished items. Some retailers are doing a lot to better their practices and slow down the rapid rise of fashion fast. H&M offers a free mending service for example. And other retailers have clothes recycling facilities.
But it’s up to the consumers to do their bit too. It is by no means easy to dig around and find out just how ethical a company is or isn’t, but by starting to pay more attention to where and how your clothes are made, you will gradually start to consume more responsibly.
I by no means have a halo hovering above every purchase I’ve ever made, but I am increasingly trying to engage with how that item went from an idea to the physical object I see before me. My wardrobe is full of cheapish purchases made years ago and I dread to think of their real cost. But I certainly won’t be making similar spending decisions in the future. Most clothes are unsustainably cheap, our planet is paying the true cost. And that can’t last forever. We all have the power to create change by consuming more responsibly.