Unpacking the life-cycle of ready-made garments

On the 30 of March, SMART hosted its first stakeholder meeting for the garment sector. Representatives of global fashion brands, fashion educators, textile producers, sourcing consultants, government, NGOs and academic experts met to discuss how to make the garments sector more sustainable.

Discussing the life-cycle of ready-made cotton garments during a session in Amsterdam on 30 March 2017. Photo: James Greisen.

Participants were tasked to discuss and answers three specific questions: What is your definition of the phases in the life-cycle of a ready-made cotton garment? What are the environmental and social aspects in the life cycle that can have an adverse impact? How would you weigh the different aspects in the different phases?

During the morning the preliminary research for two case studies were presented. Each case focuses on a cotton fashion product. SMART will do research on these case studies of a pair of jeans and a cotton made T-shirt, their life cycle aspects, and environmental and social impacts. The research will serve as supporting evidence for policy and regulatory proposals to the EU.

Social and environmental aspects were explained based on our SMART project life cycle model. Social concerns were defined through the Oxfam Doughnut, and participants were encouraged to define social concerns through the Oxfam framework. Environmental concerns were outlined through the planetary boundaries determined by Johan Rockström and others in 2009 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These models were used to frame the discussion around environmental impacts and concerns of various aspects of the product life cycle.

During the ensuing interdisciplinary group discussions, participants explored which areas of the product life cycle could have the biggest environmental and social impacts if changed or regulated. These discussions helped us establish which phases to include in the final research model and what social and environmental aspects to include in what phases. Finally, it gave us the opportunity to open a discussion on some of the more nuanced issues within the life cycle.

The outcomes of the previous discussions were ranked later on the same day.  With the adjusted phase model taken from the discussion in the morning, the groups were each tasked with ranking specific environmental and social cost based on a scale of 0-3 with materiality guiding the ranking discussion. The ranking system was there for us to see what elements of the life cycle span would deliver the biggest environmental and social impacts if changed. In this roundtable discussion materiality was defined as the risk of an event and the ensuing social or environmental impact as a result. Following the ranking of various phases, the goals and limitations of the research were discussed.

The meeting was finished with a panel discussion in which all participants agreed that there is  a need for regulatory bodies to create meaningful and impactful regulation that will foster the betterment of the planet and people. The panel consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pension funds, factories and NGO’s.

By James Greisen, Yulia Levashova, Martine Bosman
Published May 8, 2017 2:07 PM - Last modified May 9, 2017 2:05 PM