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Garment Worker Welfare And Environmental Issues Are Deeply Connected In Fashion Supply Chains

by: Rosie Dalton | 3 months ago | Features

Image: Maria Valdenira Rodrigues, Veja’s Agricultural Engineer, who oversees the brand’s organic cotton supply chain in Ceará, Brazil. Image source.


We talk about sustainability a lot and also about garment worker welfare throughout fashion supply chains. But it is important to point out that these two things are not mutually exclusive, in fact the two issues are deeply connected in fashion supply chains.   

This is because fashion's environmental impacts also have human impacts. Sustainable fashion, or the use of fabrics and processes that cause less harm to the environment, is not only better for the health of the planet, but also for the health of garment workers too.

Take conventional cotton, for example, which is grown using toxic chemicals like pesticides that strip the soil of biodiversity and pollute waterways. This crop can also cause serious harm to the health of workers who come into contact with this conventional cotton and the chemicals it contains.

Glyphosate, for example, is an herbicide that is commonly used on conventional cotton crops. This is despite the fact that it has been found to have genotoxic effects including reproductive, developmental, immune and neurological effects. As a result, many women that live in and around conventional cotton farming areas have been found to experience related reproductive issues.

And this is an intersectional issue as well. According to report by a Pesticide Action Network (PAN) entitled ‘Is Cotton Conquering Its Chemical Addiction,’ Africa accounts for 8-9% of the world’s cotton market. And, in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, 90% of pesticides are used in cotton.

With this in mind, we need to support organisations like Intersectional Environmentalist – which is working to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement. And we need to prioritise shopping sustainable for the health of both people and the planet. These issues are all interrelated and only once we educate ourselves about these links can we start to make more informed purchasing decisions as consumers.

If in doubt, shop sustainable!  

If you liked this, you might like to shop some of our sustainable sneakers by Veja:

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