fast fashion

Without major behavioural change fast fashion will undermine COP26

26 October 2021

A new approach is urgently needed to tackle the problems created by fast fashion’s environmental impact using a ‘psycho-social approach’ to change consumer behaviour or action by government is destined to fail.

To tackle the critical issue of fast fashion at COP26, Associate Professor Helen Powell from London South Bank University (LSBU) has called for:

  • Greater transparency by clothing brands, potentially enforced by government, about their production practices which would inform customer decisions when buying from a brand.
  • Greater promotion by sustainable clothing brands on the importance and benefits to individuals and the world from quality over quantity in clothing.
  • Greater focus by clothing brands and government on encouraging more people to use reuse and repair services for clothes.

In a journal article, Associate Professor Helen Powell also explains how people’s need to keep up with new fashion trends has been intensified by social media and the psychological pressure it can generate. One in three young women consider garments worn once or twice to be old. The article calls for widespread change in consumer mindsets to curb the huge rise in demand for fast fashion and explains how consumer demand would outweigh attempts by the government to reduce the environmental harm from fast fashion.

Fast fashion is a major cause of climate change and a key issue for COP26. Globally, clothing manufacturing produces more emissions than international plane travel and shipping combined, a consequence of major trends to shopping online. The fashion industry is the second highest user of water worldwide, producing 20% of total global water waste and is responsible for approximately one third of all microplastics found in the ocean.

Helen Powell, Associate Professor in Creative Advertising at LSBU said, “COP26 is destined for failure if it doesn’t tackle the huge damage to our climate from fast fashion. Global problems need global solutions and fast fashion represents a huge threat to the world’s ability to keep below the 1.5C target.

”I urge governments and clothing brands to use their huge resources on changing consumer attitudes to fast fashion, starting next week at COP26. We need more transparency around how clothes are produced, more promotion of the personal benefits to consumers of quality over quantity and a greater emphasis on reuse and repair clothing services.