Global fashion industry experts have painted a bleak future for fashion if business continues as usual, but say a sustainable sector is possible within 16 years with the right effort, courage and commitment, according to a report, titled ‘The Future of Sustainability in the Fashion Industry’, by Germany-based Future Impacts Consulting and Poland’s 4CF.

Switzerland’s C&A Foundation sponsored the report.

Currently, the sector is one of the major polluting industries globally, while poverty wages and worker exploitation remain common across supply chains.

Neither people nor the planet are getting a good deal and despite bold commitments from industry players, experts agree these do not go far enough. If current trends continue, 75 per cent respondents said it will be impossible to achieve a net-positive impact on the natural environment and 62 per cent believe poor working conditions and poverty will remain unresolved.

A future awaits the world where workers and the natural environment will continue to suffer in the name of fashion, according to a press release from the companies who conducted the study.

4CF partner Kacper Nosarzewski, one of the authors of the report, says: “One of the terrific findings of this research is that it goes from not possible, to possible. The experts are saying that, with the right efforts, it can in fact be done.”

The report outlines 14 strategies for sustainability, evaluating each for its potential impact and the earliest timeframe in which it could become mainstream, and then ranks these in order of strategic priority.

The 14 concepts fostering sustainability are increased global awareness, fibres and processing innovation, highly detailed sustainability reporting, worker-driven initiatives, high concentration/ cooperation, extended producer responsibility, wages in the fashion industry, clothing as a service, automation revolution, circular economy, consumer-level sustainability index, resale/second-hand models, majority of clothing is produced locally, and tax regulations for increasing sustainability.

All 14 are seen as achievable by 2035, while two-thirds could even reach mainstream within a decade, assuming radical action is taken. This will involve collaboration, policy change and a multi-tactic approach to address complex and interrelated issues at every point of the production and consumption cycle.

Introducing standards for transparent, comparable highly detailed sustainability reporting will be key, while one of the immediate priorities is to build a global awareness movement that takes advantage of heightened concern over sustainability issues, the report adds.

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