LWL | The fast fashion industry's contribution to environmental destruction and the violation of basic human rights

By Aanya


Deterioration of the environment has been linked to the effects of increased consumer demand.Fast fashion clothing is thought to be short-term and almost disposable, with 85% of its fabrics ending up in landfills annually.The industry is accountable for almost 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as various impacts to animals, water pollution, and broad habitat loss due to grassland conversion and deforestation.Human rights are at risk from fast fashion, as firms that follow this trend often use low-wage, unsuitable labour practices that negatively impact the lives of their employees. The fast fashion business uses poor regions as a means of producing inexpensive goods to satisfy customer demand.Women make up 85% of these employees, and they frequently experience sexual harassment and acts of violence motivated by gender at work. Child labour is frequently utilised in this business.The social norms of their nation's offer very little protection to these people, and their working circumstances are harsh and occasionally extremely dangerous.The majority of workers do not even receive the living wage, which is insufficient to pay for necessities.Now let’s dive deeped into these topics.


The easily accessible, low-cost clothing of today is referred to as "fast fashion." "Fast" refers to how rapidly merchants can bring designs from the runway into their stores in order to meet the ever-increasing demand for a wider variety of styles. The emergence of globalization and the expansion of a worldwide economy have led to the internationalization of supply chains, which has resulted in the relocation of fiber production, textile manufacture, and clothing construction to regions with less expensive labor. Cheap clothing is produced in response to rising demand, and prices are maintained low by outsourcing production to low- and middle-income nations. 80 billion new garments are bought annually worldwide, bringing the total value of the fashion business to $1.2 trillion. The United States is the world's largest consumer of textiles and apparel, with the bulk of these items being made in China, Bangladesh, or India.80 billion new garments are bought annually worldwide, bringing the total value of the fashion business to $1.2 trillion. The United States is the world's largest consumer of textiles and apparel, with the bulk of these items being made in China, Bangladesh, or India.Environmental injustices persist long after finished clothing is sold, despite the fashion industry's belief that reaching customers in high-income nations marks the end of the queue. Customers are encouraged to think of apparel as disposable by the fast fashion model.The effects of fast fashion on the environment and human health have not received enough attention in the scientific literature, research, and debates concerning environmental justice. Fast fashion should be considered a worldwide environmental justice issue due to the extent and severity of its social and environmental violations.

3.1 What exactly is fast fashion?

The phrase "fast fashion" refers to apparel designs that capitalise on trends and are swiftly transferred from the runway to retail outlets. Fashion Week runway presentations and celebrity wear serve as frequent inspiration for the designs. Fast fashion makes it inexpensive for the general public to buy the hottest new style or the upcoming trend.Fast fashion gained popularity due to more affordable, quicker means of production and delivery, a growing desire for trendy looks among customers, and an increase in their ability to afford fast fashion, particularly for younger consumers. All of this means that the established clothing companies' practice of releasing new collections and lines on a systematic, seasonal basis is being challenged by fast fashion. To keep on style, fast-fashion merchants sometimes launch new goods many times in a single week to keep up with demands of the consumers.Fashion retailers' advancements in supply chain management have made fast fashion viable. Its objective is to swiftly manufacture reasonably priced apparel in response to (or ahead of) rapidly changing consumer needs. Customers are said to desire great fashion at an affordable price. The clothes aren't meant to be worn for years or even many times, despite the fact that they are frequently created haphazardly.It links the manufacturer with the consumer in a mutually beneficial relationship as the consumers get trendy and cheap clothing in a short span of time while the producers get a lot of profit. 

3.2 Fast fashion brands and the effect of it’s ever-changing trends 

Even while fast fashion today controls the market in terms of speed, cost, and promotion, these businesses are not renowned for their ethical business methods or their cutting-edge or inventive designs.Fast fashion brands, like Zara, H&M, UNIQLO, GAP, Forever 21, Topshop, Esprit, Primark, Fashion Nova, and New Look, to name a few, have copied the distinctive styles of high-end designers and sold their products at a fraction of the price as consumers actively seek trendy clothing at affordable prices. Today's trends may shift quickly due to a multitude of influences, including popular culture, social media effects, and celebrity couture styles.It is often recognised that internet purchasing, or e-commerce, is dominated by fast fashion.Overconsumption and overproduction have been encouraged by the belief that wearing an item just seldom is acceptable, which has resulted in an increase in abandoned products.The manufacturing of apparel increased in the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century, and most labels have launched up to 24 collections a year for the summer and winter seasons since 2000 in order to stay profitable.Fast fashion companies use a lot of resources and harm the environment in the process of producing large numbers of garments.Another problem is that these labels often charge high prices for their clothing; for example, a jacket from Gucci will cost far more than one from Primark.The problem is that costly clothing is something that big fashion firms depend on selling quickly, and only a small percentage of affluent people actually buy expensive clothing on a regular basis. Consequently, in order to make money, quick fashion needs a much wider audience. A lot more clothes, shoes, and other accessories need to be made if a much wider audience consistently buys replicas of the newest fashion trends.This helps to explain why fast fashion is a major environmental problem since, in addition to the pollution that comes with producing items in such big numbers, inappropriate disposal of fashion waste—such as dumping it in poor nations—which ultimately has a negative effect on the environment.

3.3 The influence of fast fashion on our surroundings:

There is an ongoing demand for fashion, thus it is not surprising to think of the fashion sector as one of the main causes of environmental pollution.This industry is the second most polluting sector in the world, accounting for 20% of global wastewater and 8–10% of total carbon emissions. This industry is more polluting than the industries which produce petrochemicals, agriculture, manufacturing, logistics, and retail, among other activities. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise by 50% . he amount of fashion trash created worldwide was 92 million tonnes in 2015, and by 2030, that number is expected to rise to 56 million tonnes,which will be around 148 million tonnes of waste.The production and consumption of textiles have almost doubled worldwide in the last 20 years and according to the UN, the fashion sector is the second most polluting industry overall. Fast fashion companies design clothing to be manufactured to quickly change trends through becoming outdated fast and early disposal, which makes it profitable for the companies producing these clothes but this also produces a lot of trash. The creation of waste has been linked to a number of detrimental effects on the environment, such as deteriorating water and air quality. Fast fashion is not an exception when it comes to the generation of wastewater and textile waste. Particularly well-known for their role in greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste and wastewater creation at different stages of manufacturing, and extensive supply networks, are the apparel and textile industries .In addition to its effects on water management and consumption, the fashion industry also contributes to the depletion of other natural elements, including soil and energy.Since this generation is most likely the one buying fast-fashion products, it is expected that their unwillingness to dispose of their apparel in a sustainable manner will further exacerbate the issue.Although consumers of this age are said to be conscious of the various environmental problems that society faces, their attitudes and intentions may not always translate into deeds, particularly in the fashion industry.It is found that there is an increasing amount of study interest in fast fashion, particularly in light of its effects on the environment and how it relates to the environment which can cause a major problem for us and our ecosystem in the future. A transition pathway is being advanced by some companies to support the textile ecosystem's shift to a digital economy that is greener, more resilient, circular, and provides customers more sustainable alternatives but still majority of the fast fashion companies rely on their old way to rapidly make profits,keeping up with the demand of the consumers and follow the trend.

3.4 Human rights concerns in this industry

Fashion firms also benefit from an absence of strict regulations and policies controlling worker safety and health protection as a result of outsourcing production to developing nations. For example, looking at the country of Bangladesh which is one of the world's biggest exporters of clothes, mainly to the low wages given to workers (making it easier for the producers to get more clothes produced in lesser price than other countries).In this country one of the biggest fashion disasters took place in 2013, when the Rana Plaza Factory Complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, resulting in the tragic loss of 1,134 lives due to the uncontrolled effects of fast fashion. Due to the poor infrastructure and building conditions that employees must put up with during their six to seven day workweek, accidents such to those at Rana Plaza have been occurring. The majority of the workers are immigrant women with young children; they get inadequate wages, poor working conditions and unfair treatment, including sexual harassment. As a result, the Rana Plaza tragedy attracted attention from throughout the world, which sparked the 2014 Fashion Revolution worldwide campaign. By putting pressure on businesses to be more open about their supply chains and policies so that the public may view them, this movement seeks to raise awareness of the human rights violations that occur in the sweatshop sector across the world, notably in Bangladesh.The Bangladeshi apparel sector is expected to generate US$10.52 billion in sales by 2024 while the global sales are said to be US$1.79tn .The fashion industry has created a structure that makes it simple for businesses to relocate across continents and countries anytime there is a chance to reduce expenses.This global race to the bottom puts pressure on supply chain factories, and in an effort to stay competitive, they far too frequently violate fundamental labour rights by maintaining poor conditions for employees, stealing wages, and violently suppressing unions.Globally, the garment industry, which employs around 75 million people, has grown thanks in part to low wages and low-skilled labour  .Fast-fashion has led to a number of issues in developing nations' factories and supply chains, including safety breaches, non-payment, long labour hours, violence, and abuse are a business plan that aimed to keep production costs as low as possible in order to provide western society's consumers with more items at lower prices more quickly. The rise of consumerism and people's desire for more consumption were caused by the mass manufacturing of products. A capitalist society and economic system gave rise to a perpetual cycle of production and consumption which results in workers who make these clothes.Employees in the apparel and textile sectors frequently put in 10–16 hour days, six days a week, at pay that is below the poverty line. In fact, it's been said that the pay for garment workers is as little as 0.6% of what a typical t-shirt costs.Even though this problem has received a lot of attention over the recent few years, businesses still break the law and use unethical tactics in order to keep prices down.What these workers endure this nothing less than modern-day slavery and it’s high time that it must be stopped.


In conclusion, the fashion industry is said to be unethical and unsustainable.With the fashion industry being on the second last polluter in the world,it’s causes severe damage to the world and the resources that future generations will have access to and this will cause a way greater harm in the future if not properly maintained and sustained.

This is an industry where the workers (especially women and children) are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation on a daily bases and where employees face dangerous or unhealthy working conditions and receive inadequate wages,making this industry one of the biggest violation of human rights.In an industry which seems to bright there is a unseen dark side which must be addressed and resolved because enough is enough!


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It was updated on 27th September,2023.

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