The term “sustainability” is often misused. Some people do not distinguish between sustainability and eco, but they are very different. For example, if you keep consuming products made of recycled, so-called environmentally friendly materials, it definitely has negative impacts on the environment; recycling process consumes energy and emits exhaust, which will result in unsustainable solutions. Some people even misuse “eco”. For a terrible example, in Japan, electric vehicles are called “eco car”. Are they? No, not at all. Partially because of the nuclear crisis, electricity is now produced mainly from fossil fuel. Those electric vehicles are charged by burning fossil fuel. The only difference from conventional ones is whether fossil fuel is burned in the vehicle or at a power plant. Those car companies should be either not smart enough to know it or not honest enough to tell it. In either case, it is terrible.

Why do I talk about this now? The tragedy in Bangladesh, as reported in an internet article, “Bangladesh factory collapse: Who really pays for our cheap clothes?” by Anna McMullen, reminds me of sustainability issues. As I mentioned in a previous post, sustainable product design is to realize environmental responsibility, economic security, and social well-being simultaneously. Those garment companies in the Western world probably try to retain their economic security by using “cheap” labor.  Whether or not they use environmentally friendly materials, like non-toxic dye, it is not sustainable because social well-being of the labor is not secured.

So, what can we do to support sustainable garment industry? In the article, Anna McMullen argues that the brands must take responsibility, not the consumers. I agree with her. But can we entirely depend on it? As I described in another previous post, some companies in ethically-advanced nations adopt sustainable business. For example, as described in an article titled The Effects of Multinational Production on Wages and Working Conditions in Developing Countries, some companies run Anti-Sweatshop Campaign. What we can do is to support those companies. We should find our way to take responsibility. I hope they will be as visible as Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance.

May all the victims of the collapse rest in peace.

April 27, 2013Permalink