The globalized clothing industry is producing and selling more than never before. However, its success is causing environmental damage. If the current state of the clothing and apparel industry is not sustainable, how can marketers manage to balance both sustainability and profitability in a global environment that is tempting us to sell more and more?
Clothing consumption is booming. New, hot, and affordable trends attract more consumers to stores both, online and physical, and as demand increases, production also increases. According to The Economist (April 8th, 2017) only between 2000 and2014 worldwide clothing production has doubled.
Main factors that have helped this growth are globalized brands that have expanded their market shares to many more countries, and cheaper and more efficient supply chains. Buyers around the globe are getting more options faster and cheaper than ever. Long gone are those days when fashionistas around the globe had to travel to the U.S or Europe to shop for new trends. Now, collections are released in many more countries at the same time and at affordable prices that suits budgets in both developed and developing worlds. This is a very inspiring and positive landscape for many players, those that love being trendy for less money, businesses that are expanding to both rich and poor countries, and fashion marketers that want to sell their products faster.
Yet, a trendy and ever changing wardrobe has a tremendous environmental impact. Let’s take only water consumption. According to ABC News (Sept 13, 2016) the clothing industry is the second-most polluter of clean water. It takes 700 gallons of water to produce enough cotton to make one t-shirt, this can be the same as the total of one person water consumption in one month. In terms of greenhouse gases, according to the consultancy McKinsey, the process of making 1kg of fabric generates an average of 23kg of greenhouse gases. Then these garments end up very quickly being discarded, and being very difficult to recycle or reuse they commonly end up at landfills.
The situations is critical not only because of the harm that the industry is currently causing, but also because looking into the future with clothing shoppers increasing consumption, this harm will most likely increase in the coming years, unless the whole industry changes. This is where marketers have a huge opportunity if they want to move towards promoting new alternatives that causes less harm to the environment.
Some successfull environmentally responsible brands have proved that demand for more eco-friendly products is slowly gaining momentum and some consumers are already moving towards a more conscious shopping or towards investing in higher quality products that last longer.
Therefore, marketers at many other fashion brands and start-ups have a real opportunity to make positive impact. Research and development into new materials that cause less environmental harm, innovations in terms of water and land use, and less CO2 emissions will be the key for a new clothing and apparel marketing to be successful. Furthermore, there will be a tremendous space to grown for more responsible brands in the developing world. Unmeasured consumption behavior is more deeply rooted in the consumers mind in countries like the United States, in some other developing countries this behavior is still new and thus has not become a habit yet.
Globalization helped promoting a growing apparel industry even when it is not sustainable. Globalization then can also help marketers catch the eye of consumers towards more responsible brands. Social media and e-commerce are powerful tools to promote those brands that can innovate and become more environmentally friendly, last longer and offer attractive designs.