The fashion industry loves a good sustainability initiative, and no wonder.
As the dire effects of climate change increasingly become front-page news, and throngs of protestors like Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future take to the streets, brands with reputations to lose want to be seen doing something—anything—other than fiddling while the world burns.
But critics of the myriad schemes, pacts and commitments—however well-intentioned—complain of initiative fatigue, particularly when so many have similar, or even indistinguishable, goals.
Some say they fail to address the elephant in the room: overproduction.
“Growth is generally not challenged and its cumulative impacts are not accounted for in the language and commitments of these pacts,” Timo Rissanen, associate professor of fashion design and sustainability at Parsons School of Design in New York, said.
That’s not to say that initiatives don’t have value. While Eva Kruse, CEO and president of the Global Fashion Agenda, a Danish sustainability think tank and a 2019 Sustaining Voices honoree, admits it can be “difficult to navigate” the proliferation of sustainability initiatives, “it’s only through collaboration that we can drive systemic change in the industry,” she said.