Fashion’s post-growth future #16


In its current growth-at-all-cost model, fashion is wreaking havoc on the environment and operating unsustainably. The future could be accepting reduced growth.

Fashion shifts from 80-150 billion items of clothing every year, with global apparel and footwear expected to increase 81 per cent to 102 million tonnes by 2030, according to the Global Fashion Agenda, a volume worth $3.3 trillion.

Such growth comes at a cost. At its current rate, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 per cent in the same time period, per the United Nations Environment Programme. The year 2030 is important: it’s the deadline by which the Paris Agreement goals say emissions need to reduce in order to keep global warming below a 1.5° Celsius increase.

At its current pace, the fashion industry won’t help towards that aim, says Morten Lehmann, chief sustainability officer of the Global Fashion Agenda. “The sustainability performance of the industry is just not catching up with the pace of growth. Even if we pull all the levers, we will be very far from having a sustainable industry by 2030.”

In order to fix the problem, economists say that instead of “green growth”, which argues for green technologies and efficiencies to reduce global emissions with a goal of decoupling them from increased economic activity, the industry must focus on “post-growth”, which rethinks levels of consumption and production.