Big Closets, Small Planet | Sustainable Fashion Academy

Big Closets Small Planet with Michael Schragger

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP - Jason Kibbey: “Beware of the ‘Circular Fairies’!”

Jason Kibbey, CEO of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), has been been leading one of the most important sustainability trade organizations in the apparel sector for the past 8 years.

December 12th, 2018 1 hour, 1 minute 38 seconds
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About the Podcast

Welcome to Big Closets Small Planet – the podcast exploring what it will take to transform the fashion and apparel industry so that it contributes positively to the lives of people and the health of the planet.

Join host Michael Schragger as he examines the problems facing the industry and the strategies and solutions that are required to change it. Listen in as he talks with experts and colleagues - the business leaders, activists, researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs, investors, legislators, consumers and citizens – inspiring people who are racing against the clock to develop and implement more sustainable solutions.

Tell us what’s on your mind! Do you have ideas to help transform the apparel industry, or opinions about the topics or insights made by the host or guests? Feel free to reach out to us with your ideas, comments or feedback at bigclosets@sustainablefashionacademy.org.

 


Why Big Closets Small Planet?

Fashion and apparel - it touches nearly everyone.

When its at its best, fashion and apparel is not only functional, but also fun, expressive, sexy and for some, very profitable. But when it is at its worst, fashion and apparel is addictive, exploitative, polluting and extremely wasteful - in other words the essence of unsustainable consumption.

Unsustainable? Why?

According to the United Nations, by the year 2030 there will be around 8.6 billion people living on the planet and almost 5 billion of these people will be part of the global middle class.

And if these middle class citizens are anything like me, they will want to use their wealth to buy things, like the latest fashions.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that if the industry continues to grow so too will its negative environmental impacts – and these impacts could be catastrophic. Let me give you some examples:

  • According to a report by Reverse Resources, the industry creates between 40 billion and 120 billions square meters of material waste. Enough to cover countries like North Korea or Estonia.
  • According to a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the total greenhouse gas emissions created annually by the apparel sector are more than the emissions created by all international flights and maritime shipping combined. And if the industry continues with business-as-usual, by the year 2050, it will be responsible for more than 26% of the world’s carbon budget required to stay within a 2-degree temperature increase.
  • The industry also uses lots of water each year. A concrete example could be helpful. Let’s use cotton as an example. Depending on where and how it cotton is grown, it can require between 10,000 and 20,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of cotton.
  • And harmful chemicals from the dyeing and finishing process continue to pollute our waterways. There are estimates that calculate that up to 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution is attributed to these processes. And according to China Water Risk, an award winning think tank based in Hong Kong, the Chinese Textile Industry discharges double the amount of water than the Chinese coal industry. And China produces almost half of the world’s coal!
  • And new problems are also emerging. In recent years, textiles have been identified as a major contributor to the growing problem of plastics in our oceans. This is because of the millions of microfibers that shed from textiles – both synthetic and natural fibers.

In other words, while our closets are getting bigger, our negative impacts on this small planet are also increasing…

But doesn’t the industry create lots of employment, especially in poorer countries?

Yes. Reports vary in their estimates, in the recent Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, the latest estimate was that the industry is worth around 1.3 trillion dollars and creates employment for at least 300 million people worldwide. This number is probably low, given that many workers in production countries work without formal contracts and therefore this data is not reported. Some argue that these jobs are essential because they provide women in poorer countries their first employment opportunities.

But even so, many garment workers in production countries still struggle to earn enough to meet even their most basic needs. And many still work in unsafe, high pressure working environments.

And even as the economic situation for workers may improve, environmental problems, like climate change and water scarcity, may undermine this progress.

But there is a lot about of focus on sustainability and fashion these days… is it all doom and gloom?

Every day more leaders working in or with the industry are getting serious about change. Activists and NGOs continue to drive change in partnership with some visionary companies.

New platforms have emerged to help better measure and manage progress and to identify and finance new innovations and develop new business models. Some of these new innovations are mind blowing and have great potential. There are new fibers made from fruit, waterless dyeing processes, digital printers, fibers made from carbon dioxide. There are new exciting developments with synthetic silk and leather and business models focused on leasing instead of buying… and the list goes on.

Governments are including fashion and apparel in their sustainability plans and policies. And more focus is now being placed on wage increases for workers.

But if the industry is going to meet key sustainability goals within time frames proposed by the latest science, it will need to do more. It will need to completely, rethink how fashion is produced, used and consumed. And it will have to do so very quickly…

Tell us more about the podcast…

We will interview business leaders and sustainability experts, innovators and entrepreneurs, watchdog representatives and legislators, and policy makers. We discuss hot topics and inspiring innovations. We will surely get into the weeds, and discuss the hard questions, while exploring the levers for change.

If you are a current or aspiring change agent working in or with the fashion and apparel industry we think this pod will be for you.

Be sure to tune in! And don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your ideas for future podcast topics, comments or feedback at bigclosets@sustainablefashionacademy.org.