Over the years, the trend of attire shopping has gravely changed. Earlier, shopping for clothes and other textiles used to be an occasional event, but it has now become bigger than we can even imagine. Textile shopping is more of a frequent activity these days due to the online shopping facility, which leads to convenience and in-time availability. Also, factors like low prices contribute significantly. But, have you ever wondered what all goes into making this clothing?
When we are purchasing textiles, we look for items based on the budget and quality. However, there are always large hidden costs associated with the fashion industry. Most fashion brands run on the wheels of hazardous work conditions, sweatshop labor, environmental issues, etc., making it necessary for us to understand the ethical issues involved.
Through this post, we will uncover some prominent ethical problems with the textile industry to understand from where our clothing is sourced!
Since the textile and fashion industries have deep connections with fields like advertising, manufacturing, production, retailing, and transportation, the profits made by this industry are immense, despite the emerging unethical behavior. So, when related people like models, producers, manufacturers, and consumers are exploited, it is the responsibility of fashion executives to change things for fair trade clothing.
Textile products like jute, cotton, hemp, silk, and wool used to make bed sheets, comforters, blankets, etc., are obtained from nature. These products are made without harsh chemicals and toxins, making them eco-friendly and cost-effective. But, all these items cause a hazard to the environment leading to alarming situations.
Fashion and luxury clothing are manufactured by poorly paid people from developing nations. This process is called sweatshop labor and is a major concern due to the employment of young children. The fashion industry exploits these children in pursuit of low wages and cheap labor. Child labor is unlawful in most countries. But, still, due to low-cost production, it's being continued. The International Labor Organisation has estimated that 11% of the global population of children are associated with working within the fashion and supply chain industries.
Some minimum wages have been set up by the ILO or the International Labor Organisation as a fundamental human right. But, the amount paid to these workers does not even justify their basic needs. Therefore, the garment workers are pressured to work for extended hours and cannot even refuse to work during pregnancy and illnesses.
Another practice against fair trade clothing is the significance of animal cruelty. When it comes to ethical sourcing, raising and hunting animals is the biggest concern which is also inhumane. Besides, the pollution levels near the animals' natural habitat can disturb their food chain and lead to many diseases, which ultimately make them extinct. Many fashion brands use real animal fur by skinning and trapping the animals or by raising these animals domestically, which is inhumane.
Another ethical issue is the high use of natural resources. The fashion industry massively depends on non-renewable natural resources. The depletion of these resources causes drastic climate change. The farming of raw materials requires large amounts of water, pesticide, and fertilizers. The clothes you wear daily are classified with their specific functionality and cost optimization. However, they are highly disadvantageous when it comes to the depletion of natural resources, hunting down animals, unethical sourcing of material, etc. The clothes which you buy may seem cheap to you. But, if you estimate its actual cost, you will understand that your surroundings are paying for you.
Did you know that the amount of greenhouse gases produced by the textile industries is related to the emission of 1.2 billion tonnes of Co2, which is far more than the amount emitted by ships and aircrafts combined? Due to the increase in the lower class population worldwide and elevating per capita sales in economics, cloth production has almost doubled in the last 15 years, which is the main contributor to environmental pollution, leaving a massive carbon footprint.
The fashion and textile industries have a local impact directly. The local communities benefit from the employment but at the cost of their health due to exposure to harsh chemicals, improper safety, and poor environmental practices. Toxic substances, heavy metals, dyes, bleaches, etc., cause leaching in the groundwater during the production activities. This water is used in houses and farms, leading to outbreaks of diseases and epidemics. Besides, synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic are made from petroleum, which, when thrown away, do not decompose and remain for years on the water and earth's surfaces.
The fashion and textile industries follow the practice of taking, making, and wasting. This practice uses a high amount of non-renewable resources to produce clothes that are ultimately used for hardly any time and ends up thrown in landfills. Around 15 years ago, a worldwide survey revealed that the average amount of time anyone wears the same clothes before they are discarded decreased by 36%. And presently, this amount has further reduced to 7 to 10 years only. Now, considering that only 1% of the material goes for recycling for the production of new clothes.
Now, with the rapid increase in population worldwide, the demand for everything has increased. Likewise, the need for clothing for the purpose of wearing, bedding, covering, etc., has also increased, which causes immense wastage, and after some time, the material ends up sitting in the landfills.
Dangerous working conditions are one of the main concerns linked with the clothing industry. Incidents related to fires exposure to chemicals and toxins are still continuing. Besides, emotional and physical abuse is no less.
Ethical issues with the textile industry are many; when it comes to working conditions, problems can be life-threatening. Anyway, textile industries pay only the bare minimum to the labor they are using, and on top of everything, their life surety is also juggling.
Many organic cotton farmers are exposed to lead-made dyes, pesticides, chemicals, and poisons daily, making them suffer from conditions like tremors, vomiting, and headaches. Other health problems they are afflicted with include:
Also, when it comes to work surroundings, the poor factory conditions can be quite unfavorable. In developing nations, most cloth industries are established in commercial buildings, which causes poor waste disposal and congestion. Moreover, there have been issues related to overloaded and defective electric cables, poor building design, lifts and machines, insufficient emergency exits and windows for ventilation. Plus, the labor is subjected to a manual working process due to over-delayed maintenance of equipment and machines. So, these are the top 5 ethical issues with the textile industry. When it comes to fair trade clothing, still lots of measures are to be taken for the welfare of the workforce community and the environment or surroundings. Apart from the above-mentioned issues, some other alarming issues to be addressed are given below:
Sexual objectification is not something new; the complaints against sexual biases have increased over the years. Women are usually seen as the fairer sex who are mainly associated with working in light jobs and performing household duties. This causes a negative impact on the female community about stereotypical gender roles. In the textile and clothing industries, the wide use of photoshop applications to enhance the female model appeal seems unrealistic and misleading. This imposes a feeling of insufficiency in terms of psychological well-being and portrays females as a sex symbol with perfect bodies and beautiful faces.
This portrayal of super-thin models leads to many people suffering from eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, especially the younger generation who struggle to achieve that slim figure. Also, it puts women under pressure due to their body image, both mentally and physically.
Since the supply chain is outsourced in the textile industry, it creates a situation of complexity and ambiguity. Such complexities cause management issues that result in ethical problems due to the hardships of keeping labor consistent and lawful acceptance. The prime supply chain concern associated with the clothing industry depends on child labor, improper work environment, overloading of employees, environmental issues, etc. All this eventually leads to an unsatisfied workforce which affects the business in the longer run.
Ethically sourced products may have low margins. But, they contribute towards the welfare of the environment and climate. Therefore, you must always check from where you are sourcing your products.
Ethically grown and produced products help reduce carbon footprint while being organic, which is good for your environment and surroundings. Organic products need less water, energy, pesticides, and fertilizers, responsible for killing birds and insects.
It's high time that the fashion and textile industries gear themselves up for maintaining a clean and ethical environment while following fair trade clothing before it's too late. To get the most out of their efforts, the collaboration of consumers is also needed. These industries should ensure ethical products sourcing by keeping a close watch over the raw materials being sourced. Therefore, industries should be aware and lift themselves from the shackles of ethical issues to gain a good name for themselves in the textile industry.