BY CHANTAL VAN DEN BOSSCHE, WECF
On October 5th we held a session at the Fair Fashion Festival. The festival was organized by Young & Fair, an organization that tries to influence the consumption behaviour of young people by sharing knowledge about sustainable consumption.
During our session, Toxic Free Fashion Solutions, we shed light on the polluting aspects of the clothing industry and the gender inequality that goes along with it. We were proud to be the first organization to kick off the festival in the Janskerk on the Janskerkhof in Utrecht. Our own Chantal Van den Bossche briefly talked about the chemicals in the production chain, the lack of effective global regulations, and the role and responsibility of the corporate sector, governments and consumers.
During the session, Anne-Rose Hartman, founder of the sustainable textile line With a Touch of Rose, sketched an example of how she takes responsibility within her company. She does this by checking her production chain, making optimum use of residual materials, and collecting the products after use in order to reuse or recycle them. After the session there was time for a discussion, where the guests could share their own questions and experiences. Toxicologist Hildo Krop answered many questions about the effect of chemicals that can be found in your clothing, and what effect this has on your health.
Together with 25 other organizations in Europe, we are part of the Make Europe Sustainable for All project, called MESA for short. In the coming year, the overarching theme is #OutofFashion, which focuses on issues surrounding the textile industry. As a women’s organization we focus primarily on the health aspect (SDG3) and the gender inequality (SDG5) that this industry entails. “Cotton cultivation occupies 3% of the worldwide arable land but uses about 25% of the amount of pesticides. Employees of the cotton cultivation, who – unintentionally and unsolicited – come into contact with these substances all day long are women” said Chantal Van den Bossche during the session. According to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) figures, 900.000 people die each year from exposure to toxic substances. Many of these have their origins in the workplace, but since health effects only become visible after many years, employers often get away with it.
- At a global level, we believe that UNEP can provide part of the solution by working with gender aggregated data. A global program should be launched for solutions, awareness-raising and policy guidance on gender and chemicals. Special attention should be paid to the specific women’s and children’s diseases that are related to the hazardous substances.
- At the European level, more clarity and transparency must be created within EU textile legislation. Current textile regulations do not contain any restrictions on the use of substances of concern, and existing legislation is not binding.
- For companies, the Ecolabel should become a binding standard for the entire market. The Commission could promote the use of the Ecolabel through tax incentives.
- Finally, textile prices should be adjusted. Clothing is simply too cheap, which means that consumption behaviour promotes the fast fashion industry. We as consumers should start paying the real price for clothing, in order to guarantee a better quality of life for textile workers all over the world.