Because only one out of the dozen or so most commonly cited facts about the fashion industry’s huge footprint is based on any sort of science, data collection, or peer-reviewed research. The rest are based on gut feelings, broken links, marketing, and something someone said in 2003.
If we’re serious about recruiting the fashion industry into the fight to save our world from burning, these bad facts do us all a disservice. They make fashion activists look silly. They allow brands to wave vaguely at reducing their impact without taking meaningful action. And they stymie the ability to implement meaningful regulation, which needs to be undergirded by solid data.
There are unmissable clues everywhere that something is wrong, from poisonous rivers in Bangladesh and Indonesia to old clothing littering the shores of East Africa to microplastics in our drinking water. But as long as we have only garbage information, we’ll only get garbage action from brands and governments to fix the problem.
…“Let’s talk for a moment about the Quantis report,” says Greer. “They refused to provide anybody — me, ClimateWorks Foundation that funded them, or the general public — any of the data that went into their conclusions. If you were to try to publish that in a peer-reviewed journal, you would be rejected in 30 minutes. It should have died a quick death.”
…Even without good data, brands and countries are attempting to lessen the fashion industry’s impact. Last year, 150 companies joined a pact where they agreed to “science-based” targets around emissions, biodiversity, and single-use plastics by 2050. It’s the latest in a long line of industry groups, agreements, conferences, promises, and “sustainable” product lines. But companies still don’t know what is happening in their supply chains and so have no baseline for what they will cut their emissions from.
…It’s clear that before we do anything else — demand legislation, invent new textiles, set targets — we need to figure out what research we need, then ask the government and big brands to fund it.