Fact Checking Fashion's Eco Claims

There's no question that the fashion industry has critical issues regarding sustainability. Fashion rightly bears huge blame for its enormous carbon footprint and for landfill surplus - and the industry's players must act now to address this. None of this is in doubt. But a growing worry is how the proliferation of unsubstantiated statistics - propagated by the corporate green-washing trend and the media's need for catchy clickbait - may conversely end up hurting the sustainable fashion movement these claims are trying to support (and which we so desperately need!).

So what do we actually know? The New York Times put out a great investigative piece into the backstory of one of the most-loved claims:

"Fashion is the the world's second most polluting industry after oil".

This claim is plastered across social media, has featured on the Guardian, has been cited at industry conferences and even inspired a feature length documentary. But it turns out that if you follow the trail of citation back, you end up nowhere, with the report unable to to find a verifiable source that will accept responsibility for the whole "second biggest" idea. Its just a stream of media outlets, fashion designers, content producers citing each other without any identifiable 'root' source of research.

The reality is, that what verifiable reports DO actually show us, should be more than enough to scare and propel us into action. But unfortunately some of those stats aren't catchy enough to capture the public imagination in the eyes of the media. The two green-ticked stats in the infographic are from method-driven reports identified by the NY Times.

Some might argue whether the exaggeration matters? If extremeness is what propels necessary action, does the end justify the means? Or does this push us further down the slippery slope of alternative facts? For us at least, maintaining the credibility and influence of the sustainability movement is crucial.

If you fancy giving the full NY times piece a read, you can find it here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/fashion/fashion-second-biggest-polluter-fake-news.html

fact checking eco myth


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