On their own, brands can make efforts to be more sustainable, more ethical and more responsible. But it will never be enough to bring the fashion industry’s environmental footprint within science-based recommendations or to ensure adequate wages and working conditions for its millions of workers, argue supply chain experts, environmental and labour advocates, as well as some brand executives. Ultimately, they say, the only thing that can achieve that is legislation.
“We absolutely need governments to create more policies to make the apparel industry more sustainable, and beyond sustainable to regenerative. There’s almost nothing out there that requires that,” says Cara Chacon, who heads Patagonia’s social and environmental responsibility team. “There’s many things the government can do to help even the playing field, but also get us to a more sustainable place.”
While businesses focused on sustainability are often swimming against the tide, government policies have the potential to reward companies for raising their standards.