Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

The Built Environment and Fashion Industries Are Primed to Lead the Recovery

Business
The Built Environment and Fashion Industries Are Primed to Lead the Recovery
A woman is seen shopping in a boutique. Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

By Amol Mehra

Set against rising calls for action to combat growing inequality and the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of the key drivers of industry and economic reform: workers, communities and the environment.


The crisis has laid bare the perils of relying on purely market-based approaches. This should not be a surprise to those who have long railed against the free market, shareholder-centric approach, derived from current neoliberal economic narratives.

The tide is turning, however, and business leaders are starting to understand that their legitimacy may hinge on how they respond. Those who seize this moment will surely benefit from the swing in momentum towards a more human and environment-centered approach to doing business.

Take for example the calls to "Build Back Better" from the "We Mean Business Coalition" – a group of over 1000 companies with a market cap of over $24 trillion who are organizing to support climate action and just economy approaches.

Through setting commitments for companies and building collective power to lobby governments and policy-makers, this group is joining the chorus of human rights, labour and environmental movements which have been ringing the alarm for change for some time. Together, the approach has huge potential to shift the debate – and to lead to meaningful action on the part of policy-makers to commit to tackling the threats posed by the climate crisis.

These two industries – the built environment and fashion – are sectors that are ripe for transformation and where even subtle shifts have potential for wide-reaching transformation. Here's why:

The Built Environment

The built environment – the physical places and structures that we inhabit – is a huge potential change agent in this regard. Buildings and construction account for massive amounts of energy usage and about 40% of global CO2 emissions, providing a clear pathway to shift current consumption and production pathways.

The construction sector accounts for around 13% of the world's GDP and for 7.2% of the global workforce. Many of the jobs linked to these sector have a negative history of labour rights, especially with respect to migrant laborers. As experts have noted, the scale of the industry and its relative impacts on labour markets and the environment make it a prime agent of transformation of the broader global economy.

By prioritizing approaches that focus on decarbonization and the promotion of labor rights protections, we can create economic opportunities that promote healthy, regenerative structures. Efforts are starting to seed in this regard, with increased attention being placed to mass timber and other wood products in construction, as well as the use of natural materials in buildings.

At the same time, leading human rights organizations are looking more closely at promoting rights-based approaches.

Not all industries are equal. ourworldindata.org

Fashion

But this isn't the only sector with transformative power. The fashion sector produces nearly 10% of the world's carbon emissions and is the second largest consumer of the water, all while employing between 60 and 70 million workers in garment supply chains.

While there have been laudable innovations in recent years towards adopting circularity and increasing the use of organic materials, there is still huge potential to promote transformative change in protections for workers.

Workers in the sector are often left without social protections, exposing them to vulnerability. In recognition of this need, the International Labor Organization, business actors and labor rights leaders have committed to take action to protect garment workers' income, health and employment, and to work together to establish sustainable systems of social protection for a more just and resilient garment industry.

This "Call to Action" launched in April 2020 and now needs steady implementation. The effort should seek to cast a wide tent, bringing in other industry players and leveraging development actors as well.

What's clear from the examples above is that critical, much needed efforts are starting to emerge and that these efforts need to be encouraged and accelerated. As social movements, consumers, investors, regulators and businesses themselves start to realize the value of transforming practices, the momentum will increase for other sectors to follow suit. This domino effect will spur the economic transformation that is so desperately needed to ensure that the environment, and the people who inhabit it, can live in a healthy, just society.

There can be no doubt: transformation of our economic system is imperative. The moment is now for businesses, and the industries they are part of, to seize it.

Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.

Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
Trending
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less
An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.

Read More Show Less