Tactics for Change
Thrive, Not Just Survive
We are currently experiencing a time of unprecedented crisis in both the economy and the environment: global turmoil in the financial markets, rising unemployment, climate change, food insecurity, water bankruptcy and the end of the era of cheap oil. Yet the opportunity exists for us to make use of these crises for positive effect; to utilise the period of reflection and questioning that accompanies such times for a sustainable advantage. To paraphrase Barack Obama’s special advisor, ‘it’s a shame to waste a good crisis’.
At the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, we have developed a set of ‘tactics for change’ for us to use as a barometer to our work and will use them as a basis for our interaction with colleagues, partners, collaborators and other fashion sector experts. These tactics were born out of collective discussion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion Summit held in London in October 2008 and aim not only to help industry to survive these times of change, but also to thrive through them.
- Read more in Centre for Sustainable Fashion Volume 3.0: Tactics for Change
In navigating the themes of discussion, three key areas have developed. These are our tactics for change.
Building a transformed fashion system
The fashion industry is based on a model of continual economic growth fuelled by ever-increasing consumption of resources. The unsustainability of this model is widely acknowledged. Yet also acknowledged is the important role played by fashion products in our culture. To create a less damaging, more constructive future for the fashion sector, the Centre for Sustainable Fashion suggests that as a sector that we:
Start a high level debate about the values, rules and goals of the fashion sector
The fashion industry is of significant cultural and economic importance to the sustainability of our species yet we must not be afraid of challenging its conventions and business models. At its heart, fashion is radical and thought provoking. The opportunity that this can bring should be celebrated through the visualisation of its positive possibilities. It can rapidly give shape to a new more sustainable paradigm and offer both vision and object that can help in creating a transformed industry. This means reconfiguring the shopping experience beyond the purchase of an unexplained and meaningless object, to a pleasure and attachment maintained through an ongoing relationship with the customer.
Recognise the power of design
We are all designers of our industry, regardless of our role in the supply chain. To adopt a design mentality is to work collaboratively, challenge convention and find possibility where limits are traditionally placed. Design is a key driver to transform our existing culture. We need investment in positive radical ideas in order to make them scalable, applicable and achievable.
Information is the key to innovation. Competitive advantage is not based on being the holder of knowledge in this area, it is shared knowledge that becomes powerful and distinctive when creatively applied. It is also through our education system that we must empower the next generation of fashion professionals to employ creativity to challenge practices and redefine our motivations and aspirations for the fashion industry.
Fostering human well-being
Fashion makes an important contribution to society. It creates jobs and products that satisfy fundamental human needs. Yet it can also damage individuals and societies more widely through appalling working practices, and the detrimental psychological and ecological effect of consumerist fashion. A fashion piece cannot in itself create sustainability – this is created by the way in which we design, make, wear, discard and reincarnate it. We need to design in a way that means that we engage in fashion in a way that is sustainable. We suggest that we re-connect with fashion as a tool for human flourishing and a source of creative employment and productive work by working in three areas:
Critically appraise the role of fashion in our culture
As human beings we have a deep need for adornment, discovery and novelty. Fashion can help us meet these needs. By recognising and engaging with fashion’s central role in human culture, we build towards more sustainable solutions that meet needs.
Put human well-being at the heart of fashion production and consumption
Changing fashion practices to improve well-being of workers, consumers, designers, and producers is central to a more sustainable future.
Educate in a new way
The job of the creative designer is exciting, powerful and joyful. We need a visionary education system with sustainability at its heart, producing designers who can use their creativity as a tool for communication and employ it across the supply chain.
Working with nature’s limits
The impact of the fashion sector on natural resources and ecosystems is substantial. There is an urgent need to reduce the negative effects of producing and consuming fashion. We suggest that as a sector we:
Work towards making the entire supply chain visible and thus promote information about resource use, labour conditions, pollution, and waste. This involves working with suppliers and developing a culture of trust and knowledge sharing. Transparency is a precursor for accountability.
Measure, benchmark and improve
We need measurable points with rewards where cost, ethics, ecological impact; supply chain transparency and lifecycle analysis are benchmarked and assessed against agreed parameters. This can only be achieved through collaboration, leadership and transparency.
Be open to new approaches
Look for change towards sustainability in new places, people and collaborations. Design ways in which to engage with emerging technologies so as to bring efficiencies, novel materials and new opportunities. Celebrate traditional skills and knowledge that contain much collective wisdom.
Factor in the true cost of production
Businesses need to internalise costs that have been traditionally seen as external. When questioned, 90% of businesses surveyed felt that they had a responsibility for both direct and indirect impacts of their businesses on the environment (Volume 1.0: Fashion & Sustainability, A Snapshot Analysis March 2008). However this is yet to be factored into the cost of a product and against the values by which a company stands.