It is undeniable that the planet is experiencing the negative effects of overconsumption. This is true in several industries. Witness the growing global obesity epidemic due to overconsumption of inexpensive, inadequate food. The same thing occurs with consumption of transportation (automobiles), energy, and water, among others.
Fashion is not immune to this phenomenon. While surging consumption has brought unparalleled profitability to the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) sector and the associated fashion brands, it has also created a vast set of problems. Breakneck consumption growth has led to rising levels of pollution, deficient safeguards for production facilities and workers, and alarming levels of waste as garments become ever more abundant at ever lower prices, coming to be regarded as disposable goods.
What is to be done? One logical solution is to encourage people to simply consume less clothing. Consumers would buy only what they strictly need, thereby increasing the lifespan of their garment and reducing waste. It is a sensible approach to bring overconsumption under control.
But how does this affect demand for employment and wages at RMG plants? Less demand leads to lower prices that then trigger commensurate reductions in supply. The least efficient suppliers would be priced out of the market. There would be a reduction in the RMG workforce. The entire industry’s growth rate would be curtailed and profits would suffer. It would appear workers would be worse off, as there would be less job vacancies to fill.
Clearly this is a tricky balancing act. Less consumption is good for the planet but not good for RMG employment. Perhaps a targeted method of curtailing fashion spend would work better. Consumers could be encouraged to reduce purchases of certain brands that are certified to source unsustainably or produce shoddy quality as a punitive measure for these deficiencies. In this way the reductions will hit brands and suppliers with the worst records disproportionately. Those utilizing best practices would thrive.
A focused purpose-driven reduction of consumption absolutely indispensable to bringing the industry under control will drive better results than an all-encompassing effort. In this way, the detrimental effects of reduced consumption can be compensated for by an improvement in sourcing practices and durability of the garments themselves.
Thanking workers by paying them gratuities directly via tip4good can help mitigate the inevitable downwards pressure on costs and workers’ take-home pay that this initiative would produce in the short term.
Let’s try tip4good!
tip4good is a startup in disruptive innovation blending new mobile payments technology and generosity to permit consumers to thank the factory workers who made their garment by paying them a gratuity. Please help us continue to grow! Just join our leads list to support our pilot program: www.tip4good.org
Humanity deserves the opportunity to make this work.