The sustainability of fast fashion- what can the wider business community learn?

When starting a business, we must consider that we are living in an age where we want everything instantaneously.

From binge-watching our favourite TV shows on streaming platforms to ordering our takeaways online, we expect to have everything we need right at our fingertips. 

It is an age of supreme convenience, but behind the scenes our ravenous appetites for everything we consume are having a significant impact on things like the environment and economy. It is an issue of sustainability.

Unsustainable practices

When something is provided for you cheap and quickly, it’s likely that corners had to be cut to make it that way. 

We’ve all heard about sweatshops in the far east, where workers are paid next to nothing for 12-hour shifts producing the cheap clothing we love to buy. 

The same is true of the food industry, where animals are bred, raised in appalling conditions and slaughtered on an industrial scale to keep up with our demands. 

Not to mention the mass deforestation required to grow the crops to feed not just us, but those animals as well. 

Still, we throw away a disturbing amount of waste food, while millions of people around the world starve to death.

Change is needed, but the only way it will happen is if individuals in society begin to take ownership of the issues and choose to purchase responsibly. 

We are more socially connected and aware than ever before, but most of us choose to turn a blind eye to the problems. 

We hear stories about retailers, in both big and small business, that are using these unethical practices and doing all they can to avoid paying tax and contributing to the global economy, yet we still give them our money. 

If everyone made responsible purchasing a priority then the market would respond to the shift in demand.

Who can help?

We have learnt that famous faces can help with these causes. Jamie Oliver has had a tremendous impact on the quality of school meals, and David Attenborough has really brought the issue of plastic in our oceans into the spotlight. 

Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that people who live in a lower economic standard may not have the money to buy more ethical products – this can make the issue of sustainability seem a little preachy and middle class. 

It is market leaders who are best positioned to facilitate real change by investing in future updates and sustainable changes to their business models, and the benefits will be passed down to the consumer. And any new start-up can follow suit.

An example of this taking place is Apple’s response to an incident at one of their factories, in which members of staff in their supply chain committed suicide. 

The employees worked in one of the firm’s Chinese factories, igniting concern over working conditions. In response, Apple took the step of sending COO Tim Cook to see the facility and implement changes to working conditions and wages that would improve the lives and mental health of employees.

Wave of the future

Certified B Corporations balance purpose and profit with a legal requirement to consider the impact of business decisions on workers, suppliers, customers, communities, society and the environment. 

As a community of leaders working towards a single unifying goal, these corporations could make the changes that are needed. 

Anyone setting up a business today should consider following in this model if we are to achieve a sustainable future.

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