How sustainability can save the fashion industry after COVID 19?

All of us don't know what the world will look like on the other side of the COVID-19. The only certainty is that it’s bound to be different.

We all have been experienced and seen, in just a few months, most of the industries have been turned upside down by the global spread of coronavirus. Especially fashion industry was already in trouble before the pandemic due to the relentless switch of demand from physical stores to digital online.  

Before discus how sustainable practice can save fashion industry, let’s take a look on how does traditional way looks like…

In the global fashion industry, brands typically pay their suppliers or manufactures weeks or even months after delivery, rather than upon order. This means that suppliers/ manufactures usually pay upfront by themselves for the materials or fibres used to make the product brands buy from them.

When the world is talking about sustainability, what did fashion brands act like during the COVID 19? In response to the pandemic, many major famous fashion brands and retailers are cancelling orders or stopping payment for the orders they already placed, even when the work has already been done, they are taking no responsibility for the impact of those people who working on their supply chains. Manufactures are left with little choice but to destroy or keep hold of unwanted goods already made and lay off their workers in droves. Brands who were with the partnership in the last few years, seems all turned into strangers.

According to Bloomberg, there are around 1,089 garment factories in Bangladesh have had orders worth roughly USD1.5 billion cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. For those workers from developing countries, it comes down to a level of bare minimum survival mode, while the western countries still have the privilege of having a subsidy from their privileged governments.

Who can survive the COVID 19 pandemic?

Fashion, in fact, is one of the businesses most vulnerable to disruption from the outbreak. The sudden stop in retail and subsequent supply chain disruption are forcing brands to rethink their sourcing strategies and the impact that it creates. The shock of seeing the world crippled by a virus will change attitudes towards saving the planet by travelling less, buying clothes in a more sustainable manner.

While some of the brands or environmental advocates have been encouraging an end to overconsumption for many years, we also know that in the face of this unexpected halt in manufacturing, it is the most vulnerable, lowest paid people in the whole fashion supply chain that feel the worst effects.

The fashion industry won’t simply return to business as usual, on the contrary, it is the time to reshuffle. While the major fast fashion brands, such as H&M, Burberry, PVH and Kering, declined to comment on the future of its sustainability commitments. A report made by BCG, SAC and Higg Co urged that the fashion brands should take “Real Actions” to show their sustainable practice, instead of only “greenwashing” or bluffing. They should not shelve their sustainability investments, but should instead protect the human capital and relationships in their supply chain and maintain key social environmental programmes.

There’s no way for business or brands try to go back to business-as-usual. In contrast, they should rethink and rebuild the business model. It is believed that, for the brands who have/ willing to adopt(ed) sustainability initiatives for their core business, their sustainable transformation plans are secure. In contrast, for the brands continue to use sustainability as their marketing tool, rather than integral to their processes, that are likely to halt progress in this area.

We, as a customer, have seen how vulnerable the entire world is, and the whole crisis has raised our awareness of social and environmental sustainability. It is unlikely to return the pre-crisis consumption behaviours already. It is believed that customers will be more intensely to request product’s transparency and traceability.

Sustainability is a journey, not an event that can be postponed. It is a way of life. Some things don’t change.

Who do you think can survive the COVID 19 pandemic and in the future?

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