Here are several things I’ve learnt from both observing and/or working with different fashion companies, with regards to sustainability efforts in the industry.
Almost most of the time, sustainability efforts, however big or small, are done with good intentions. That does not however mean that good intentions necessarily lead to effective and efficient radical change that could reverse the climate and modern slavery crisis we’re in, in time.
The gap between good intentions and actual radical change is “starting with little steps”, among other reasons. As the Lakota educator Henry Red Cloud says “there are times when we must accept small steps forward—and there are other times when you need to run like a buffalo.”
Radical change in the industry isn’t going to happen without radical change in how business is done, because in a system that monetarily rewards companies (in the short run) doing shitty things with huge margins, there are only so many companies and people who could afford to and would always put people and planet over profit. You’re either in an already privileged position (potentially made possible by previous exploitative business actions) or you’re a stubbornly decent human being, both of which are of the 1%.
Radical change in how business is done starts with radical imagination. Imagining the effects of our today’s action on the long term sustainability of your business. Imagining the unquantifiable effects of good business reputation on revenue and customer loyalty. Imagining a society that monetarily rewards those who use green fabrics and fair labour practices and taxes or punishes those who don’t. Imagining a society that makes the right thing the easy thing to do.
And radical imagination? Starts with you and me... And leaders of top companies, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and the next person you chat with.
But radical imagination without a plan is just good intentions.
So let’s start imagining, learning, brainstorming, planning, collaborating, and getting to work. Pat on the back when an effort is made, but be honest about whether it’s good enough, and how that fits in to the long term plan. As my tiger mother used to say, “Ok is not ok. Good is not good enough. Excellent, well, that’s excellent”. Let’s strive for excellence.