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No More Excuses: The Industry isn’t Doing Enough to Slow Climate Change

It can be a touchy subject, but this is no time for hurt feelings. The apparel industry simply isn’t doing enough when it comes to climate change.

In a provocative, no-holds-barred episode of the Sustaining Voices podcast, produced in partnership with Cotton Incorporated, Sourcing Journal publisher Caletha Crawford explores whether our incremental changes are having the impact needed. Joining her are Morten Lehmann, chief sustainability officer for Global Fashion Agenda, and Jeff Wilson, senior business development manager of sustainability for NSF International.

The plain truth is that there’s simply not enough effort. While the news isn’t all bad—the industry has set its fair share of bold targets—40 percent of the industry has done almost nothing, said Lehmann.

What’s more, the industry is woefully inadequate on both transparency and supply chain mapping, Wilson said, hampering our ability to measure and document progress and impact with credibility. This authenticity is becoming important to consumers—who are often already operating in an environment lacking in brand trust—and it makes it harder to properly allocate funding. (And if you think it’s hard to find the funds to effect change now, just wait until the regulations start coming.)

As for the consumers who say they aren’t willing to pay higher prices for ethically made products? Wilson said, they shouldn’t have to.

“We’ve continued to ask consumers, whether they want this, how much they want it, how much more they’re willing to pay. To me, those are absurd questions. As an industry, we just need to own this,” said Wilson, noting that the industry is well aware of the current practices involving slave labor, child labor, unsafe factories and toxic chemicals.

He added: “We ask our customers, ‘Well, do you want a T-shirt that doesn’t hurt people or a T-shirt that does hurt people? If you want a T-shirt that doesn’t hurt people, how much more you willing to pay for that?’ Are you kidding me? We just need to own building the T-shirt that doesn’t hurt people and the environment—and make that happen.”

Listen to the podcast for a frank discussion on what the C-Suite needs to pay attention to, why it’s good news that companies are finally admitting how hard this is, and techniques on how to do more. (One hint: Don’t even bother trying to go this alone.)

Learn more about Sustaining Voices.