Ethical fashion denotes a way to source, design and manufacture clothing in order to maximize benefits to communities and people along with minimizing environmental impact. According to Manchiraju and Sadachar (2014) for a behavior to be considered as ethical it has to be morally acceptable and correct. In case of ethical fashion the definition of ethics goes well beyond to not causing harm, taking an active role towards poverty, creating sustainable livelihood and countering and minimizing concerns related to environment. One of the main principle of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is Human dignity. As stated by Shen (2014) the modern world is becoming more and more materialistic where the respect related to human life is diminishing. It is proclaimed by the Catholic Church that as human life is holy and sacred the dignity of a human is the fundamental with respect to a moral vision in the society. It further provides that the basis of all principles provided through the social teachings is the inherent dignity of human beings and sanctity of human life. There are various issues faced by the fashion industry in relation to ethics. The issues can be divided into business issues, people issues, environmental issues and country issues. The business issues include fashion & development, awareness & fashion, cheap fashion, fast fashion, barriers and trade tariffs. People issues include fair trade, rights of workers and their wages, skills and culture and sustainable livelihood. Environmental issues include the use of dyes, pesticides, water, waste & energy, recycling and eco-fashion.
The main issue faced by the fashion industry in both Australia and globally is sustainability in the industry. The fashion industry in the present day is liable for the exploitation of people and the environment. It is the number one industry in Australia when it comes to exploitation of people. An investigation into the fashion industry provides that there is no knowledge on the part of nine out of ten fashion companies in Australia with regards to where the fashion is sourced from along with failing to pay the overseas works an amount to meet their global needs which is against the principles of common good. The problem is not only limited to Australia but to the entire world where the fashion industry is related to several issues against common goods such as less wages, little rights, child labor and no effort for well being of the labors. Rutter and Armstrong (2015) provide that even after several accidents in the industry a considerable number of brands are still exploiting the labor force. In order to abide by the principles of human dignity the problems has to be addressed with utmost significance and priority (Jordan 2016).
This section of the paper demonstrates ways to address the challenge related to sustainability in the clothing industry for a fair and just society. The priorities for the fashion industry must be the condition of labor and water foot prints. The initial step which has to be taken by the company is to adopt fabrics which are more sustainable and cost 10-15% higher than the base price. This would initiate a chain reaction in the industry. As responsible textiles would be sourced by big brands the volume of orders would be more and will reduce the cost of manufacture which would subsequently reduce the selling price and make the product more accessible to the consumers. This would also ensure that the industry makes more profit providing them the chance to give increased salaries to the workers. The market of sustainable product has to be enhanced which has a very limited scope. The awareness of the customers in relation to where fabrics come from and how cloths are made have to be raised along with the environmental and social impact of the production through social media. As highlighted by Cohen, Amaral and Cunha (2015) a market for sustainability may be present but the customers are not aware of it.
Marshall (2014) stated that the initial step to attain sustainability would be through the enhancement of internal transparency. A lot of brands are not aware about the source of origination related to the clothing. This it becomes significant to go through the supply chain and assure that sustainable practices are adopted through supply chain without which it cannot be possible to make the customers know about sustainable values.
Another key element for the change in industry is through the sharing of best practices. As the clothing industry is very complex and a single answer cannot resolve the issues sharing knowledge can be critical. The solution can be found only through enhanced collaboration at various stages.
Although there are a few fashion brands which are super ethical the lack of stylish and affordable cloths is still lacking in the high streets brands as the demand of ethical fashion is not enough in the market. One of the problems is that many fashion companies are not provided the exposures as compared to big non ethical brands it is not possible for them to afford public relation representatives who are the power house of the industry. The fact denotes that although there are stylists and editors who would want the production of ethical fashion they are not exposed to it to the same level as compared to big brands.
As provided by Gwilt (2013) the ethical fashion report 2017 almost 80% of the fashion companies were aware of the supplies involved in the final stages. It is the level of supply chain with which the companies have the strongest relationships. The enhanced visibility ensures that the worst forms of forced labour, child labour and exploitation are very less prevalent at the supply change. However, deeper into the supply chain where there is very less visibility these risks are substantial. The issue can be addressed through the introduction of transparency. Improved corporate transparency around the supply chain is needed to ensure corporate transparency. This can be initiated through increasing the willingness of the organizations to be more accountable to the consumers. On the other hand the companies having low transparency and less responsiveness have to be brought under public scrutiny and strict regulations towards their governance and environmental policies. The low grading system is not being effective enough to address the issue of less transparency and accountability.
Another way of address the issue of human dignity within the fashion industry is to address the living wages of the labours (Henninger and Singh 2017). The fashion industry is continuously growing every year and is one of the most labour intensive industries in the world. It attracts those groups who find it difficult to get jobs in other sectors along with those who have been associated with the industry for generations. It is seen that in most of the industries the labour force is exploited by proving them less wages. The issue has to be addressed by introduction of the national employment standards into the industry for the enhancement of the well-being of the labour force. Trade unions should be provided with increased power so that the collective bargaining power of the workforce is enhanced in order to promote human dignity. It can be argued by the company that the responsibility of taking care of the labour force is on the suppliers and not them. Thus the customer and consumer expectations have to be shifted along with the regulatory and political environment
Cohen, N., Amaral, I. and Cunha, J., 2015. Fashion communication: a way to change comsumption behaviour towards ethical fashion. In 2nd International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conference on Social Sciences and Arts (SGEM2015) (pp. 393-400). SGEM.
Gwilt, A., 2013. Sustainable and ethical fashion.
Henninger, C.E. and Singh, P., 2017. Ethical Consumption Patterns and the Link to Purchasing Sustainable Fashion. In Sustainability in Fashion (pp. 103-126). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Jordan, A.M., 2016. Towards Sustainability: Online Ethical Fashion Retailer.
Manchiraju, S. and Sadachar, A., 2014. Personal values and ethical fashion consumption. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 18(3), pp.357-374.
Marshall, J., 2014. Fashionably ethical. Big Issue Australia, (474), p.29.
Rutter, C. and Armstrong, K., 2015. Ethical fashion consumption.
Shen, B., 2014. Sustainable fashion supply chain: Lessons from H&M. Sustainability, 6(9), pp.6236-6249.
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