Sustainable fashion law has not kept up with the speed of change to provide consumers with proper protection.
Slow, sustainable, fair, ecological, ethical, local, environmentally friendly, responsible, conscious. There is no shortage of these terms, we get lost in the noise, especially in the “battle” for customers. Language is devalued, and words are used by advertising experts with total impunity.
The plethora of certificates and various organisations that try to ensure transparency in the fashion sector does not seem to solve the problem. In many ways, the conflicting information from “sustainable experts” can actually make things more confusing.
It’s mainly the big players who can afford to invest in the labeling of their products, and the consumers still don’t really understand what lies underneath.
Contrary to how it may seem, awareness and knowledge about certification and sustainable fashion law are very low.
We have about a hundred different certifications that demonstrate environmentally and socially sustainable products but there has not been one specific eco-label that has cemented itself yet as the go-to within the industry. In addition, this wide variation results in a lack of orientation and comprehension among consumers who either do not know or do not understand what the labels stand for.
Consumers want to trust the sustainability labels and believe that their attribution is reliable. In comparison, the food sector is much more closely scrutinised because of the food safety aspects which can have a tangible impact on the health and even the lives of consumers. Food standards data is readily available but problems with the fashion industry have been swept under the carpet for years.
In recent times that we have heard more and more talk about the potential harmfulness of some materials used in the clothing industry, either directly to a person’s health or through the environmental impact.
Traditionally sustainable fashion law hasn’t stirred up much excitement with the public. So it’s easier to subject the t-shirt-buying customer to manipulation, and the ideas are countless because the imagination of marketing professionals is limitless.
It is very difficult for consumers to understand which products are truly sustainable. Most of them do not understand what is meant by the term “sustainable,” which covers a wide range of issues in a highly fragmented supply chain.
The birth of the term “sustainability” can be traced back to forestry in the early 1800s. Hans Carl von Carlowitz (1645–1714), a german cameralist, a Polish Royal, and an electoral Saxon chamberlain. He was the main creator of the concept of sustainability in forestry, using the German term for sustainability, Nachhaltigkeit, in his famous study ‘Sylvicultura Oeconomica oder Anweisung zur wilden Baum-Zucht’ (Sylvicultura Oeconomica or the Instructions for Wild Tree Cultivation).
Sustainable development is an important part of the international law system which can be seen as an alternative to globalisation. Due to the vagueness and ambiguity of the precise definition, more information on the legal term for sustainable development can be found and explained in standards and documents created by the United Nations.
The idea of creating the assumptions of sustainability is the sum of many factors. This includes the evolution of progress, starting with the technocratic understanding of economic growth, through eco-development (planned and implemented development taking into account the possibilities and environmental effects), ending with the concept of human subjectivity formed within the framework of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, from which arise, among others, the right to a healthy life in harmony with nature, welfare of the community, intergenerational justice or self-actualisation of the individual.
Beautiful ideals in international soft law also have their place in national environmental laws or national constitutions. The lofty declarations remain just letters written on paper and, although signed by so many countries, rarely implemented in reality. Unfortunately, words do not go hand in hand with actions, so it is in vain to look for satisfactory and tangible results.
Responsible consumption and production, as well as fulfilling international agreements, seems like such a distant goal because business ethics is a big issue in an individualistic world. Short-sighted profits win at the expense of health and life.
Karolina Pruchniewicz is an international lawyer specialising in sustainability. She is championing work on sustainable fashion law. Check out her website sustainabilitylaw.business.site for more info. If you are thinking of starting up your own sustainable fashion brand and need help with sustainable fashion law get in touch. Karolina offers consultancy on environmental issues and our members are happy to organise meetings, events, and celebrations in the spirit of zero waste, as well as conducting lectures and thematic workshops.
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