Transparency in the fashion industry (27.1.2022)

Blogitekstin kirjoittaja Hanna Käsmä työskentelee markkinointipäällikkönä suomalaisessa vähittäiskaupan yrityksessä ja opiskelee johtamista Lapin yliopistossa. 

Due to the increased awareness concerning sustainability, customers and other stakeholders are nowadays demanding to know more about companies, products, and production processes, as well as their impact on society and environment. This can be seen also in the textile industry, which can typically be described as one of the major industries that contribute to environmental damage. The main reason for this questionable reputation is fast fashion that has a huge environmental footprint. Fast fashion can be combined with cheap labor costs as the production usually takes place in low-income countries. Yet, as we all can imagine, the words “cheap” and “responsible” rarely resonate with each other. Indeed, fast fashion comes often with poor working conditions, weak regulatory compliance, and corruption, which cannot be considered sustainable at all. Besides, fast fashion and its disposable nature cause a lot of waste as the clothes are not made to last but to be worn only once or twice.

It has been a delight to notice that several fashion companies have started to take steps to meet the demands of stakeholders by opening up their manufacturing processes and life cycle of fashion garments. To me, transparency is a sign of a reliable company that strives to take ethical business seriously and promote sustainable development by producing high-quality clothing that last time. Yet, critical thinking is the key when it comes to analyzing whether the information concerning sustainability can be trusted or not as companies naturally want to make their brand appear responsible even though it genuinely might not be case. In fact, it is quite difficult to see which fashion brands are truly transparent in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices as the information isn’t very easily available or at least you have to put a lot of effort to be able to evaluate the sustainability of the entire supply chain. Different kind of certifications and standards help to recognize which companies have legitimate sustainable management systems, yet the area of standardization is a complex one as measurement methods vary and isn’t therefore easily compared with each other.

In my opinion, good examples of transparent domestic fashion companies are, for example, Marimekko, the Other Danish Guy and YO ZEN. I base my opinion both in the information they provide concerning CSR issues, as well as in my own experience. Each of these companies has profoundly opened their philosophy of sustainability on their website, which increases the confidence by guaranteeing that these issues really matter to them and can be find in the heart of their strategy. I (or someone close to me) have also personal user experience of these products and can therefore flag on behalf of them, knowing that the pursuit of high quality and durability isn’t only words but realized also in practice. It is obvious that transparent and understandable information about sustainability may help to support consumer decision-making to make better choices, which is why I would like to see more companies move in this direction in their communications. Knowing the origin of the products and their environmental and social impact are factors that drive at least me when making purchase decisions, and I am proud to say that fast fashion isn’t an option for me anymore but something that I am trying to get rid of in my everyday life.

KTM Hanna Käsmä työskentelee markkinointipäällikkönä suomalaisessa vähittäiskaupan yrityksessä keskittyen erityisesti muodin ja kauneuden maailmaan. Töiden ohella hän suorittaa johtamisen maisteritutkintoa Lapin yliopiston yhteiskuntatieteellisessä tiedekunnassa, kiinnostuksen kohteinaan etenkin vastuullinen liiketoiminta ja johtaminen.