Clothes provide comfort, protection, an expression of individuality, and jobs, with more than 300 million people working along the clothing industry value chain. But for all the growth it generates, the industry also encourages considerable waste: More than half of fast fashion is disposed of in under a year, according to estimates.
This ‘take, make, and dispose’ business model has outsize costs to the environment, society, and the industry itself. Total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production clock in at 1.2 billion tons a year, more than those emitted by all international flights and maritime ships combined.
Replacing this linear business model with a circular design one would help recapture more than $500 billion in industry losses every year and still mitigate negative environmental impacts. Major brands, including H&M and Nike, are already taking notice. Nike instituted a Sustainable Manufacturing and Sourcing Index, which works to incentivize and reward improved environmental, health, safety, and labor practices at the factories along its supply chain. H&M has committed to using 100 percent recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030. Other companies have embraced circular concepts by disrupting the traditional clothing market and establishing various clothing rental services.