Clothing stores like H&M, the Gap, and Forever 21 are examples of “fast fashion”, or fashion that focuses on cheap costs and speed. This kind of clothing is not the best quality, and therefore falls apart quickly so that the shopper is forced to buy more clothing from another fast fashion store.
Even though this clothing is affordable and popular to buy, it can be harmful to not only the environment, but also to the employees who work for these companies. Issues in the realm of Ethics have been discussed in class, such as Alcoa and the Chiquita Banana case, and fast fashion is another example of an ethics dilemma.
Fast fashion companies often use labor practices which underpay and overwork employees in countries that don’t have many rights for workers. This article states that “More than 80 percent of workers don’t earn a living wage, and it’s not uncommon for garment workers to work 13 to 14 hours per day, nonstop”(Gutowitz).
The working conditions are very bad in some instances, for example, the case of the Rana Plaza, a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This was an incident which had a death toll of 1,134 and about 2,500 people injured. A woman named Aklima Khanam who worked there noticed a large crack in the ceiling, and therefore was afraid to return to work. Her bosses said they would lower her pay if she didn’t show up, so she came. After an hour, the building collapsed, and she was trapped there for fifteen hours and received multiple injuries that have made her unable to work. She therefore cannot earn her salary of thirty one dollars a month, and she also hasn’t received any compensation from her employers since the accident (Gutowitz). Also, many of these employees working for these companies are below the age of eighteen, so some companies support child labor.
Fast fashion companies also have a large impact on the environment. Carbon emissions are prevalent because of airplanes are used to ship merchandise, and so are fossil fuels because manufacturing plants require coal energy. Landfill waste is another issue, as a large portion of clothing is thrown away instead of being reused. Water pollution also occurs when dyes and other chemicals used to color the clothing get dumped into bodies of water.
Although it is logical to purchase fast fashion for people who can’t afford high end clothing, I believe that we can take steps to minimize the effects it has on our environment. One can start shopping at thrift stores or asking friends for clothing they don’t need to reuse old clothing. Furthermore, it would be ideal for fast fashion companies to recycle unsold clothing or fabric, and to stop dumping chemicals into bodies of water. Also, laws for better rights for workers should be fought for.
Gutowitz, Jessica. “’Fast Fashion’ Is an Exceedingly Harmful Branch of the Clothing Industry.” Pipe Dream, 17 Feb. 2020, www.bupipedream.com/opinions/114520/fast-fashion-is-an-exceedingly-harmful-branch-of-the-clothing-industry/.