Sustainability, it’s a loaded word. It can be a word of praise or a word of condemnation depending on how it’s used.

When we talk about fashion it appears everywhere, this label is sustainable, this brand should be more sustainable, but are we in danger of using it so much that it’ll lose meaning?

I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently and I’ve reached two main conclusions. While quite often sustainability is used by people to achieve pressure or offer support, it is also used for greenwashing, and also its something we direct towards businesses but not ourselves and our own actions.

Greenwashing is increasingly a way for labels to do as little as possible but take a moral position publically. I’m hugely frustrated by the lack of accountability around claims and the lack of guidelines for what is and isn’t sustainable.

A label that can show you a supply chain all the way back to the field the cotton was grown in can be presented in exactly the same way that a label has a 6 item collection can. I’m just going to put it out there, a solitary collection doesn’t make your business green, it’s a start but it’s not an end. We should have regulations around what percentage of responsibly sourced garments sold is required before you can apply the claim, 5% helps but it shouldn’t put you on the same advertising footing as 100% of products.

Then there is volume, if you employ a fast fashion model, no matter how good your sourcing is, you are still using up resources you don’t need to, creating demands on power, water and transport that aren’t needed and therefore are still damaging our planet. The elephant in the room of all this is online shopping, handy but a significant contributor to wasted resources and built on a model of making you order more while knowing it how much isn’t returned or isn’t sellable upon return.

But, and here is the big but, its easy to blame the businesses, but are they not just meeting consumer demand. They sell or disappear, the shareholders demand profit, and so they must act not in the best ecological sense, but in the most profitable.

Consumers need to be accountable for our actions, we need to say we are part of the problem, our constant need to purchase more clothes are as much of an issue as those on the supply side, after all, there is no supply without demand.

This cycle of destruction doesn’t end without us, we don’t stop the pollution, the damage and the churn without changing ourselves. We have power in our pounds to force change in what is sold, but we also have power to disrupt the system.

Buy less, buy better.

It really is that simple.

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