what is sustainability

What is Sustainability and Why Does it Matter?

Ok, so today I’m going to address something that might seem quite basic for some, but not so obvious for all. You hear me talk about sustainability all the time, “sustainable fashion”, “sustainable living”, “sustainable all-kinds-of things”, ok.. But what does it actually mean? It’s something I’ve never actually addressed, so here we go! What is sustainability and why does it matter?

We all know the very common definition of sustainability “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Right, okay. And now..? We still don’t know what it means in practice, in real life. So let’s try to understand sustainability.

There are three major pillars of sustainability, three main sustainability criteria, that can each be broken into smaller concepts. So let’s start.

Sustainability criteria #1 – Social Equity

Well, put simply, it’s about The People. Human rights issues, justice, gender equality and cultural diversity are all issues that fall into this category. That’s essentially why you can’t advocate for sustainability and buy clothes manufactured in poor condition by underpaid, at-risk, vulnerable workers – or buy from companies that produce their product under such condition. Hello, Fast Fashion?

So for conscious shoppers, it’s always a good idea to check what causes the company is supporting, to check if they align with your values. Sustainable fashion doesn’t necessarily mean “green”. We can not forget human rights and we need to remember that there are still causes that need fighting for when it comes to our own human race. So if a companies caters for those in need? And if you buy from them? Make sure the cause they support is in line with your values. So that it’s a win-win!

Sustainability Criteria #2 – Environmental Protection

Environmental protection is probably what most people think about when talking about sustainability. To make it simple, it’s simply The Planet. It’s about “green”, it’s about caring for the environment and it’s about reducing the impact on the planet. I guess that’s where the whole idea of “There is no Planet B” comes from – by the way, you should definitely check this movement, it’s very inspiring!

One of the most known ideas of environmental protection when it comes to sustainability is the low waste element, that also relates to recycling and no-plastic initiatives. But it would be a mistake to think that’s the only way. Here again, there are many ways in which one can make sustainable changes; and so many issues that definitely need to be addressed. From water polution, to deforestation, to biodiversity and endangered species. If you really want to zoom in and choose one issue, trust me, you have a choice.

One thing though, when it comes to environmental protection; one thing businesses need to stop like right now, is the “green-washing” of their business. What is green-washing, you ask? Well, it’s basically telling people you “care” when really you’re just covering up the mess you create. It’s spreading a message of sustainability and consciousness, while knowing full well that in every other area, you are sustainability’s worst enemy. I obviously won’t be giving any example here, but we know which companies launch sustainability campaigns, using “recycled polyester”, while exploiting vulnerable population at the other end of the world.

Sustainability Criteria #3 – Economic Development 

Well, last but not least, The Profit. Well, it’s about economic growth; and it addresses issues such as reducing poverty, betterment of education, energy efficiency and employment, amongst others.  One thing to understand is that sustainability is an evolving concept, that works as a system. Businesses want Profit, of course; but they also need to ensure that they help with the development of others’ economic development.

So there you have it! Sustainability made simple. Once you, as a customer, understand that no business is perfect, but all must strive to implement sustainable changes, then you’ll be more curious about their policies, their efforts and the causes they support. I always try to read the Sustainability Statement and Claims before buying, as it is the way I choose my pieces. You know that cute little dress that was from this terrible selfish and careless company? See how ugly it became when you realised they were exploiting women and children making $2/day? Yeah, that’s what I mean… But beware, because green-washing is real!

What is, in your opinion, the most important aspect of Sustainability in the fashion industry? Let me know in the comments below!

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