Sunday, 29 November 2009

Small Steps Towards Big Change (...if I can convince someone to take the first small step)

I'm currently working on my final major project for my Masters, (project title 'Zero Waste Systems for Unsuccessful Fashion) and this has given me the opportunity to speak to a few large high street companies about their Corporate Social Responsiblities and making changes for the better within the current fashion system.

I have to say that so far these conversations have been a little disappointing, one company refusing to give me any info about their CSR and declining to give feedback on my project as "they don't like to comment on sustainability issues as it can be used against them in the press" (get real guys, if you were taking your CSR seriously you wouldn't need to be secretive about it!)

I spoke to a major high street retailer (who I won't name at this point) who has a very clear CSR plan and markets themselves as a 'green' brand driving change within the industry. I was told my idea was "aspirational but not commercially viable on a large scale" this came along with words to the effect of: we're making enough profit doing things the old way, why try something new?

So yeah, I guess things do 'work' with the current way of doing things, but if we think further into the future, we start to realise that things can't carry on the way they are; the price of goods cannot continue to get lower, the price will eventually plateau, and at this stage large retailers will need to start doing something to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The biggest issue; the current system may work at the moment, but it's not working for the environment, it's polluting and all the stuff that nobody wants is just sitting in landfill, and where does it go from there? Nowhere, because there is no such place as 'away'.

I hope these retail giants begin to realise that putting a few 'organic cotton' / 'fairtrade' lines within their ranges is not enough, its not convincing the consumer to pay the higher premiums these goods demand, and it's certainly not preventing the huge levels of pollution that the textile industry generates.

A lot of Fashion and Textile courses are starting to incorporate sustainability issues into their curriculums and consumers are becoming more aware of sustainability issues; lets hope that retailers start to take small risks with their profits to enable change to start happening within the fashion industry.