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.
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. (https://whatshemakes.oxfam.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Living-Wage-Media-Report_WEB.pdf)
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.
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