Waste and pollution

The garment industry is one of the largest carbon polluters on planet Earth, and one of the greatest producers of waste. Three out of five of the 100 billion garments made in 2018 will end up in landfill within a year. Toxic chemicals land in the environment and worker communities, and the production of cotton uses up vast amounts of water.

What's the problem?

The business model of Fast Fashion has led to an enormous increase in the amounts of clothes that are produced, sold, and discarded.

According to McKinsey, clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, and the average consumer buys 60% more garments each year. At the same time, these clothes are kept only half as long as they were a mere fifteen years ago.

A staggering 100 billion items of clothing are produced each year, that's nearly 14 items for every human being on the planet. Some of those never even reach the consumer; it caused a minor outrage when in 2018 a luxury brand admitted to burning clothes just to 'protect the brand'.

Yet, with clothes being so cheap, people do not wear at least 50 percent of their wardrobes, according to this study.

The apparel and footwear industries together account for more than 8 percent of global climate impact, greater than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined.

Water usage for growing cotton has led to drastic shrinkage of the Aral sea, and dyeing and treatment of garments makes up roughly 17-20% of all industrial water pollution. (source)

What we do

Clean Clothes Campaign as a network is mostly focused on labour rights. We do not claim to be experts on environmental issues.

We do work closely together with other organisations that have more expertise, such as with Changing Markets on their "Dirty Fashion" campaign.

And while we applaud efforts by brands to reduce their environmental impact, we insist that such changes can only be meaningful when they also are positive for workers.

An industry that makes billions on the exploitation of people and the planet does not suddenly become more sustainable when they start using organic cotton, or starts burning their unsold stock (remember - people worked really hard for poverty wages on those clothes!) as a green fuel...

Real sustainability can only come from systemic change in the industry, which must include decent working conditions, a living wage, and a dignified life for garment workers.

Without that, boasting about sustainability becomes just greenwashing a fundamentally flawed business model.