Is sustainability a privilege?

Sustainability as a privilege is a conversation that has been prevalent on social media in the last few weeks. With more people discussing fast fashion, in particular Boohoo’s recent scandal, the debate surrounding who should be making a change has been called into question.

In short, yes, sustainability is a privilege. Ultimately, it is the big corporations and businesses that need to change in order to make a big impact on the world. However, as individuals, we can do our bit to shift society’s attitudes towards fashion and sustainability and address its huge inequality.

One quote comes to mind when discussing sustainability as a privilege; ‘we don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions doing it imperfectly.’ If you have the choice to shop sustainably, then we should be doing so. That is the key word – choice.

Being able to shop at sustainable stores, go to second-hand shops, and take time to research about sustainable options is a privilege. Recognising that it is a privilege and using your privilege to spread awareness is a step towards dismantling the unequal system, making sustainable fashion more accessible.

There are millions of people in the UK that have no choice but to shop at fast fashion retailers, and no choice but to shop at second-hand shops. Thrifting’s popularity has increased massively over the past few years, but it can be argued that this is the cause of the increase of prices.

It isn’t marginalised groups that have no choice shopping at fast fashion stores that are at fault. Statistics show that it is the poorest groups that have the smallest environmental impact, yet it is them impacted the most. Marginalised groups have been living sustainably for years – the clothes they buy from fast fashion stores aren’t thrown away after a few wears – they are kept, used, and upcycled when needed. 

We need to be focusing on businesses, corporations, and those in power who are in the position to make bigger impacts on the sustainable industry. But, as a person with the privilege to shop at sustainable shops and the privilege of having the platform to write about sustainability, I will make sure that I make steps towards making my personal life more sustainable.

At the Copenhagen Summit 2019, they discussed sustainability’s link to privilege. They said:

Serving consumer desires for newness in the form of fast fashion is not the problem. The problem is the unsustainable nature of the materials and processes used and the net effect on the planet. So the message seems to be that fighting biological urges is a folly while pursuing sustainable solutions central to the creation of fashion is what is urgently needed.

Sustainability is biggest in the luxury fashion industry, so already there is a large number of people excluded and unable to access sustainable fashion. This is unfair. Sustainable fashion needs to be accessible to all, and this ties back to privilege. If you can, do.

S x

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