The research comes amid building scepticism of economic strategies anchored in growing GDP at all costs, and as the European Commission prepares to step up efforts to regulate the textile sector through a new sustainability strategy.
Fashion’s adherence to growth has contributed to it being one of the world’s most polluting, wasteful and exploitative industries, yet existing strategies to tackle fashion’s unsustainability – such as using more recycled materials in fast fashion or labelling schemes – stop short of questioning the industry’s problematic dominant economic model.
The research, led by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, makes the case for moving fashion beyond growth towards a system where human and ecological health come first.
Using the concept of the ‘wellbeing economy’ – an umbrella term to describe growth-alternative economic concepts – the research identified four guiding principles for building a post-growth direction for the fashion sector so that it works in the interest of the common good:
- Establishing limits to reduce how much is produced and consumed in line with planetary boundaries
- Promoting fairness to ensure social justice globally
- Creating healthy and just governance to make sure the transition is inclusive and participatory
- Embracing new exchange systems where clothing and textiles are provided in ways that do not depend on overproduction and overconsumption
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