I happened to stumble across this video today and it definitely opened my eyes to the level of thought I have put into my clothing purchase decisions.
I think it is fair to say that while getting dressed everyday, very few of us contemplate the source, materials, labor, and life-cycle of the clothing we have purchased and are sporting. That level of disconnect follows us to the store, as well, where the true price (environmental, human, and otherwise) of a pair of jeans, shirt or jacket is not transparent. The truth is, until an inflammatory journalistic expose, like those that continue to indict popular companies such as the Gap and Nike for their labor practices, very little focus is placed on the sustainability of such a large element of everyday life.
From the sourcing and production of raw materials to the chemicals being applied to the labor being utilized, there is a lot to be aware of when considering the clothing companies and products you choose to support. In an effort to bring more of these struggles into focus, there are several initiatives designed to promote sustainable practices on the production side, as well as sustainable purchases on the consumer side.
The UN Global Compact has recently joined with members of the fashion industry in an effort to address the ethical, environmental and social challenges inherent to the fashion and textile industries. The UN, along with the Nordic Initiative Clean & Ethical (NICE), hope to successfully launch the first global, sector-specific initiative of this type at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May 2012.
Additionally, several manufacturers and consumer-facing organizations have begun making it easier to identify sustainable clothing at the time of purchase. Timberland Footwear has been extremely active in this arena, providing consumers with detailed information on the material makeup and production of their footwear and clothing products. And GoodGuide is an organization which consumers detailed health, environmental, and social impact information about a wide range of consumer products and companies via the GoodGuide website as well as through their mobile phone app.
The good news is that with a little bit of thought, consumers can make thoughtful purchasing decisions that encourage companies to become more sustainable. Conversely, with companies like Timberland and organizations like GoodGuide that support transparency, consumers are ever more aware. How will you make smarter purchasing decisions?