Has the Covid-19 pandemic helped or hindered environmental sustainability?
Environmental sustainability has been gaining momentum in recent years, thanks to a younger, greener generation, greater social awareness, and the obvious consequences of climate change for all to see.
But, of course, something happened that no one predicted.
Well, almost no one.
The Covid-19 pandemic changed everything on the planet, from day-to-day personal interactions to how entire nations conducted international trade.
So what did this mean for sustainability?
Has the pandemic helped or hindered the drive for a greener, cleaner planet?
And what has changed in the apparel industry?
The drive for environmental sustainability
A recent survey by Southern Cross University found that 93% of people indicated a general concern for the environment, while 77% said they wanted to learn how to live more sustainably.
Compared to even a few years ago, the concern for environmental sustainability has grown immeasurably, with the younger generation, in particular, taking action.
Plastic pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change are the three top concerns for those surveyed, but all these issues are different branches of the same tree, a tree that’s slowly killing us all.
And people are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
Another survey in the UK found that 84% of people say a poor environmental track record might cause them to stop buying from a brand. More importantly, nearly half are willing to pay a premium for socially-conscious or environmentally-friendly brands.
This drive for sustainability is causing businesses to take the issue seriously for fear of losing customers, resulting in an avalanche of “pledges” by companies in recent years to become greener.
How fashion was contributing to carbon emissions
As one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, the time was well overdue for the fashion industry to change to a more environmentally-friendly approach to business.
Many leaders in the industry were calling for a more ethical approach, including people like Stella McCartney, Eileen Fisher, and Mara Hoffman.
These included tactics such as going carbon neutral, reusing and recycling old material, and only using natural fibres.
A push towards a circular economy was gaining momentum in the fashion world, but then Covid happened.
Welcome to 2020
Rumours and reports of a deadly virus coming out of China seemed like something from a horror movie at the start of the year, but within a few short weeks, a global pandemic was in full swing.
Entire countries shut down, international trade practically ceased, and thousands of factories shut their doors.
Millions of people lost their jobs.
The apparel industry was hit hard, with the vast majority of their production sites in countries like China, Bangladesh, and India – countries hit hardest by the economic downturn.
Everyone on the planet was affected in some way by the virus, whether they caught it or not, and with second and third waves still continuing around the world today, it may be some time before things come close to ever being in any way normal again.
How the drive for sustainability changed
In the early days of the lockdown, it looked like the pandemic was having a positive effect on the planet.
As industry ground to a halt and transportation stopped, reports started to come in of rivers and lakes looking clearer, skies bluer, and the air less polluted.
But now factories are starting to reopen, those improvements are vanishing again.
In fact, to make up for lost time, many governments are giving the biggest polluters a green light to plough ahead and ignore past environmental laws in order to get the economy back up and running.
But even if large companies and governments are not taking environmental sustainability seriously, the impact of the pandemic has made individuals think about it more.
New research shows that a third of UK households have become more eco-friendly over the past few months, by doing simple things like turning lights off, upcycling household items, and walking to places rather than driving.
The effects on the fashion world
After years of activism and education by environmental activists, fashion designers, small brands, independent journalists, and more, the fashion industry has finally started to acknowledge the need for a more environmentally responsible way of making clothing.
Just in time for Covid to strike!
Many people hoped the pandemic would provide the kind of reset that might allow the fashion industry to rebuild itself into something more equitable and ethical.
Unfortunately, the years of campaigning to make life fairer for those working in third-world sweatshops were basically wiped out, as millions of workers lost their jobs, placed on furlough without pay, or even made to work without pay!
Of course, it wasn’t just workers in factories who were affected.
Many well-known brand names and retail stores went bankrupt, shutting their doors forever, while others are just barely hanging on.
With many businesses having to curtail spending, one of the first areas which see cuts is sustainability.
A survey by sustainable business specialist Edie found that just 30% of professionals said their company was continuing to invest in sustainability and energy-saving technology during the pandemic.
Whether or not spending on green policies returns after the pandemic, is something we’ll just have to wait and see.
Environmental sustainability is not just a buzzword
We take sustainability very seriously here at immago, and we like to think our clients do too.
A post-pandemic fashion industry needs to be environmentally focused, and not repeat the mistakes of the past.
From sourcing raw materials to the treatment of workers, every aspect of the industry needs to transform to make the world a better place.
With over 50 years in this business, we can help guide you through the changes ahead.
We aim for sustainability and encourage our clients to do the same, both for the sake of the planet and the future of the industry.
If you would like to know more about how we can help, then please don’t hesitate to contact us today.
One of our friendly and experienced advisors can help explain how we can prepare your business for a post-Covid world.