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S U S T A I N A B I L I T Y R E S P O N S I B I L I T Y A C C O U N T A B I L I T Y
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!Sustainability in Fashion and Textiles: Values, Design, Production and Consumption
Edited by Miguel Angel Gardetti and Ana Laura Torres
978-1-906093-78-5 (hbk) 978-1-909493-61-2 (ebook)
2013 Greenleaf Publishing Limited
Miguel Angel Gardetti and Ana Laura TorresThe Sustainable Textile Centre, Argentina
In 2000 the worlds consumers spent around US$1 trillion on clothingsplit roughly one-third in Western Europe, one-third in North America and one-quarter in Asia (Make Trade Fair and Oxfam International 2004). Seven per cent of total world exports are in clothing and textiles. Significant parts of the sector are domi-nated by developing countries, particularly in Asia, and above all by China. Indus-trialised countries are still important exporters of clothing and textiles, especially Germany, Italy in clothing and the United States in textiles. According to Allwood et al. (2006), the developing countries now account for half of world textile exports and almost three-quarters of world clothing exports.
Because of the size of the sector and the historical dependence of clothing manufacture on cheap labour, the clothing and textile industry is subject to intense political interest and has been significantly shaped by international trad-ing agreements.
Estimating the number of people working in these sectors is extremely difficult because of the number of small firms and subcontractors active in the area and the difficulty of drawing boundaries between sectors (Allwood et al. 2006). According to statistics from the UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisa-tion) Industrial Statistics Database (INDSTAT), around 26.5 million people work within the clothing and textiles sector worldwide (ILO 2006).
Also the same report indicates that of these 26.5 million employees, 13 million are employed in the clothing sector and 13.5 million in the textiles sector. These figures are only people employed in manufacturingnot retail or other supporting sectors (Allwood et al. 2006).
* Our special thanks go to the review panel for their outstanding work. This book would not have been possible without their dedication and commitment.
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2 Sustainability in Fashion and Textiles
Around 70% of clothing workers are women (Hernndez 2006). In the garment industry, women typically sew, finish and pack clothes. Supervisors, machine oper-ators and technicians tend to be menwho earn more. In the past five to ten years, employment in the sector has increasingly been concentrated in China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Romania, Cambodia and Turkey. All of these countries, apart from India, have shown increases in clothing and textile employment from 1997 to 2002 (Allwood et al. 2006).
However, for many smaller developing countries, which are small exporters on a global scale, clothing and textiles exports are their dominant form of external earn-ings. In Bangladesh, Haiti and Cambodia, clothing and textiles account for more than 80% of total exports. Similar high figures apply to the proportion of the coun-trys manufacturing workers employed within the clothing and textiles sector.
Setup and switch-over times and costs have traditionally led to large batch manu-facture of clothing with long lead timesfashion shows for summer clothing are held in the autumn to allow six months for manufacture. However, this pattern is rapidly changingwith customer demand for so-called fast fashion where stores change the designs on show every few weeks, rather than twice per year. This emphasis on speeding up production has led to concentration in the industry with fewer larger suppliersto take advantage of economies of scale (for instance in purchasing) and to simplify the number of relationships that must be maintained by retailers.
This trend is now more noticeable in the clothing sector with the growth of full package companies that are able to supply quick time delivery orders to big retail-ers (Allwood et al. 2006). Downstream textile finishing and dyeing processes are being integrated into textile weaving factories and further integrated with clothing manufacture and the distribution networks. Such integration supports rapid serv-icing of the demand for fast fashion by avoiding the build up of stock character-istic of long supply chains and providing shorter lead times. There is also a trend towards investing in increased capacity and introducing new industrial robotics: substituting expensive labour with novel technologies. A variant of such single company vertical integration also in evidence is the development of clusters of businesses supporting each other through regional integration (FIAS 2006).
Given this panorama, there is no doubt that the textile (and fashion) industry is significant to our economy. However, within the context of sustainability, this industry commonly operates to the detriment of environmental and social factors (Gardetti and Torres 2011).
Understanding sustainable textiles and fashion
Given the complexities that exist in the textile and fashion industry, and the impor-tance of our cultural and emotional connection with clothes, some issues that will contribute to a better understanding of this book are presented below.
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What is sustainable development and sustainability?Sustainable development is a problematic expression, and few people agree on what it means. One can take the term and reinvent it considering ones own needs. It is a concept that continuously leads us to change objectives and priorities since it is an open process and as such, it cannot be reached definitively. However, one of the most widely accepted definitions of sustainable development, though diffuse and non-operating, is the one proposed by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED 1987) report, Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report, which defines sustainable development as the development model that allows us to meet present needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The essential objective of this develop-ment model is to raise the quality of life by long-term maximisation of the produc-tive potential of ecosystems, through the appropriate technologies for this purpose (Gardetti 2005).
While achieving sustainability is the goal of sustainable development (Doppelt 2010), the word sustainability has several meanings nowadays, and is frequently reduced by associating it with environment. Some authors, such as Frankel (1998) and Elkington (1998), define sustainability as the balance between three elements: economy, environment and social equity. Though this definition is closely linked to organisations, it can also be applied at the societal level. But not everybody agrees with Frankel and Elkington: Paul Gilding (2000) argues that much of the complex-ity of sustainability is lost when considering only the three mentioned aspects. Sustainable development is not only a new concept, but also a new paradigm, and this requires us to look at things differently. It is a notion of the world deeply dif-ferent from the one that dominates our current thinking and includes satisfying basic human needs such as justice, freedom and dignity (Ehrenfeld 1999). It is the vision through which we can build a way of being.1 Also, Suzuki and Dressel (2002) define sustainability, at the individual level, as the assessment of all human behav-iours with the vision of reformulating those that contradict the development of a sustainable future.
What is understood by textile and clothing industry?According to the European Commission, the textile and clothing industry is a diverse and heterogeneous industry covering a large range of activities from the transformation of fibres to yarns and fabrics and from these to clothing, which may be either fashion or non-fashion clothes.2
1 Sustainability by Choice, unpublished document, J.R. Ehrenfeld 2002. 2 European Commission Enterprise and Industry Textiles and Clothing: External Dimen-
sion, www.ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/textiles/external-dimension/index_en.htm, accessed 28 March 2012.
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4 Sustainability in Fashion and Textiles
The clothing industry is intensive and offers basic level jobs for unskilled labour in developed as well as developing countries. Job creation in the sector has been particularly strong for women in poor countries, who previously had no income opportunities other than the household or the informal sector. Moreover, it is a sector where relatively modern technology can be adopted, even in poor countries, at relatively low investment costs. These technological features of the industry have made it suitable as the first rung on the industrialisation ladder in poor coun-tries, some of which have experienced a very high output growth rate in the sector ( Nords 2004).
At the same time, the textile and clothing (and fashion) industry has high-value added segments where design, research and development are important competi