Fashion Facts

The Impacts of Fashion and Relationship to the SDGs

#3: Good Health & Well Being

  • 1-3% of agricultural workers worldwide suffer from acute pesticide poisoning with at least one million requiring hospitalization each year according to UNEP, FAO and WHO.
  • Producers and garment workers might face excessive hours, forced overtime, lack of job security, denial of trade union rights, poor health, exhaustion, sexual harassment and denial of other basic human rights — not just in places like Bangladesh, but also in the US and UK.

#6: Clean Water & Sanitation

  • 17-20% od industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment and an estmated 8000 synthetic chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles, many of which will be released into freshwater.
  • “Closed loop” technology exists to prevent this, but it is not yet widely used.
  • Greenpeace’s Dirty Laundry Campaign has led to 80 brands eliminating the most toxic chemicals from their supply chains.
  • A wide ranging survey of water around the world found micro fibres (from synthetic textiles) in drinking water from New York City to Nepal. They were found in 83% of tap water and 93% of bottled water.
  • Micro fibres are found in our municipal sewage treatment plants from laundry. That sewage is often treated and then prepared as compost for crops, which means that microfibre pollution is also getting into our food system.

#8: Decent Work & Economic Growth

  • Would a living wage for garment workers be a cost too heavy for brands (i.e. in lost profits)? No. In Bangladesh minimum wage is $87/ month, where as a living wage is $248/month. If a standard white t-shirt costs $20. In the minimum wage scenario, only 4% of the profit goes to the workers — and if just 1% more of the profits are shared with the workers, that makes up the difference between a minimum and and a living wage. (
  • Fashion is one of the world’s most labour intensive industries, directly employing at least 60 million. 80% of the workforce who make our clothes are women aged 18-35. 300 million people work in the cotton sector if you count family labour, and workers in related services such as transportation, ginning, bailing and storage.
  • The Global Slavery Index estimates that 36 million people are living in modern slavery, many of whom are working in the supply chains of Western brands.
  • In Maplecroft’s Child Labour Index, India ranked 1st with over 14 million children working, mainly in textiles.
  • On a positive front, global brands like H&M are demonstrating that changes can happen. As of 2018, 655 of their factories are “establishing foundations and processes” for living wages.

#12: Responsible Consumption & Production

  • As a society we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did 20 years ago.
  • Between 2000 and 2014, fashion consumption grew by 60%, but consumers now keep garments half as long.
  • Every household in Ontario sends 48 kg of textiles to landfill/ year
  • Only 15% of our unwanted clothing is donated/collected/recycled. 85% goes to landfill
  • Fabric scraps on the cutting room floor are either incinerated or put into landfill – there are no incentives for brands and retailers to recycle them
  • Only 1% of the toxic chemicals used to treat and dye fabric are approved by the EPA
  • Conventional cotton is grown with some of the most toxic pesticides and fertilizers – it is the second largest user of pesticides after coffee

#13: Climate Action

  • The fashion industry is the second largest global polluter after oil & gas
  • 1 kg of textiles = 4 kg of CO2
  • 5 million Ontario households = 960 million kg of CO2 – Equivalent to more than 7 CN Towers in weight/ year
  • 25% of the carbon footprint of our clothes comes from how we care for them
  • Wearing clothes 50 times (instead of the average 5 for fast fashion items) can reduce carbon emissions by 400% per item, per year
  • Canadians purchase an average of 70 items average/year (includes undergarments, socks, t-shirts, PJs, hats, scarves etc)
  • Greenpeace study, 66% of shoppers lose the buzz of a new purchase in as little as just a few moments, to one day.
  • The average garment is only worn 3-7 times before being disposed
  • 70% of the garments found in landfill are there simply because they were improperly laundered (no attempt to remove a stain)
  • The carbon footprint of a single t-shirt is estimated at 20x more than its own weight
  • The average t-shirt travels 35,000km before it lands on our back

#14: Life Below Water

  • The fashion industry is the largest global industrial polluter of water
  • The textile industry pollutes 5,640,000 Olympic size swimming pools of FRESH water each year
  • The average cotton t-shirt requires 555 gallons of water to make. This is equal to roughly 10 full bathtubs of water
  • Many factories dump their waste water into global rivers and lakes
  • 10 million microfibers shed every time we wash synthetic garments (polyester, nylon, acrylic) – this affects aquatic ecosystems. This can be reduced by washing less, washing in cold and with less soap.

Between 2015 and 2050, 22 million tonnes of microfibres are expected to enter our oceans, which will have detrimental impacts on marine life

The World Bank has identified 72 toxic chemicals in our water solely from textile dyeing - 30 of which cannot be removed

The World Bank

Washing clothes releases half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles


The fashion industry uses 32 Million Olympic size swimming pools of fresh water every year. It is expected to increase 50% by 2030

Global Fashion Agenda

Globally, cotton uses or consumes 1,931 liters of irrigation water per kg, on average

Transformers Foundation

If no changes are made, by 2050, 25% of the world's carbon budget will be taken up by the fashion industry alone

In 2015, polyester produced for clothing emitted 282 billion kg of CO2 – nearly 3x more than cotton


The fashion industry accounts for 8.1% of the total greenhouse gas emissions

Fashion Revolution

the Fashion industry produced 2.1 billion tonnes of GHG emissions in 2018

In 2015, 92 million tonnes of clothing were sent to landfill. at current growth rates, this number could increase 50% by 2030

Of the total fibre input used for clothing, 87% is landfilled or incinerated, representing a lost opportunity of more than USD 100 billion annually

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

37 kg of textile waste per person ends up in Canadian landfills each year

Textile Waste

Of the 73% of garments that are sent to landfill or incinerated each year, 95% could be reused or recycled

1 kg of natural textiles in landfill emits 4 kg of CO2

World Resources Institute

Circular business models, including fashion rentals, resale, and repair could help the fashion industry cut 143 million tonnes of GHG emissions in 2030

Approximately 20 to 25 percent of globally produced chemical compounds are utilized in the textile-finishing industry

Handbook of Textile Effluent Remediation

Clothing in its finished product is often coated with highly toxic chemicals such as flame-retardants and formaldehyde (an anti-stain and wrinkle repellant)


Toxic Chemicals

Only 16 out of 1600 dyes are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for human and environmental health


Nearly $2.6 billion worth of pesticides are sprayed on cotton fields each year

Pesticide Action Network North America

At least 60 million people are directly employed in the global fashion industry

International Labour Organization

In some places in China, young women in the garment industry work 150 hours, or 12 extra days of 12 hour shifts each month

• 60% have no contract

• 90% have no access to unemployment insurance

International Labour Organization


An estimated 170 million CHILDREN are engaged in child labour, many working within the fashion supply chain. That is 5x the population of Canada!

International Labour Organization

Garment workers in China make as little as 12-18 cents per hour working in poor conditions

US National Labor Committee

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