While humanity was brought to a halt for 3 months and millions of people across the globe were quarantined, the environment seemed to be experiencing a period of resurgence. Cities such as Los Angeles, New Delhi, Manila, and Paris experienced sharp declines in air pollution and emissions, causing their normally smog-filled skies to be clear. The before and after images of these urban centers have not only emphasized how human activity impacts the environment, but also have highlighted the good that can come when we take a step back.
Air Pollution and Emissions Drastically Decline
Human ecologist and archaeologist, Elic Weitzel stated that this year it is predicted that global greenhouse gas emissions will see an 8% decline to levels that have not been seen in a decade! It is safe to say that this shift would not have been possible without the temporary shut down worldwide, which of course our economy cannot sustain long term, but it does provide an interesting case study on our immediate impact on the environment. This further proves that business as usual needs to be re-evaluated as fashion accounts for roughly 10% of all carbon emissions and is estimated the world’s 2nd worst offender for water pollution (Global Wellness Trends Report).
This global pandemic has undoubtedly brought sustainability to the forefront of our lives by revealing how fragile we are as human beings. Now more than ever we see the correlation we have with the health of our environment. As a result, consumers across the world are raising their expectations of apparel brands and are responding positively when brands demonstrate social responsibility, give back to communities in need, and prioritize environmental sustainability. Though some fashion brands have recognized their responsibility far before COVID-19, we are seeing an uptick in bigger brands taking serious steps to increase their sustainability, as all brands should be continuously working towards sustainability.
Textile waste and unsold inventory as a result of overproduction have always been a major concern for fast fashion. These days brands regularly produce 30-40% more than they sell and then rely on discounts to get product off the shelves. In fact, in 2018 H&M reported an enormous $4.3 billion of inventory that went unsold. The Coronavirus has exposed this fundamental weakness even more given the massive decline in consumption. Considering that consumers are physically unable to go to stores and unemployment rates continue to skyrocket, the loss in revenue and waste caused by overproduction will eventually force brands to rethink their production methods for life post-COVID.
What's in store for the fashion industry after this pandemic are still speculations but if brands want to not only survive, but emerge from this stronger, they must prioritize sustainability. Industry leaders who actively incorporate sustainability into their supply chain will leave a lasting legacy.
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