The True Cost of Fashion

Here at Prove Your Purpose, we've been keeping an eye on CSR in the fashion industry. To continue our examination of the issue, we're thrilled to bring you a guest post from Amelia Brandt of Cone Communications' Sustainable Business Practice.

What's the true cost of fashion? A recent New York Times article shed light on a number of human rights and inspection violations at factories in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Now, respected human rights organization Social Accountability International is under fire for potentially auditing and certifying factories that contractors never actually visited. This is just the latest in a stream of apparel-related news that has intensified the growing concern over labor conditions at overseas factories.

The apparel industry has had its fair share of environmental-related issues as well. Just recently, the results of the Greenpeace Toxic Threads study found that two industrial zones in China were contributing significant amounts of chemicals into the water supply. These facilities provide apparel to brands such as Gap, Levi's and Calvin Klein. To its credit, Levi's responded with a planon how it will eliminate hazardous chemical discharges. This new study is part of the Greenpeace Detox Campaign, which issued a similar report last year about chemicals in factory wastewater. Last year's report pushed brands to pledge to eliminate hazardous chemical discharges from their supply chains by 2020. Puma, Adidas and H&M; Mango, Zara and Esprit have recently added their names to the list.

While U.S. regulators and activists have always kept a keen eye on apparel manufacturing issues, ever since New York's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, it seems we are now entering a new period of awareness about this issue. Now, in 2012, companies' business practices are under more scrutiny than ever before. Companies must not only achieve transparency throughout the supply chain, but also put a human face on the issue and recognize there's still a long way to go in terms of certification and auditing. For their part, consumers will need to open their eyes about the true human cost of fast fashion.

We encourage your thoughts and comments. Continue the conversation on Twitter by using #ConeCSR

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