The charity based its claim on the finding that each tonne of new clothing produces 23.3 tonnes of carbon emissions – including sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, production, transport, washing and disposal – or the equivalent of driving a car 162,000 miles.
Furthermore, it said emissions from all the new clothes bought in the UK each month are greater than those from flying a plane around the world 900 times, while buying just one new white cotton shirt produces the same emissions as driving a car for 35 miles.
The alarming statistics were released to reinforce Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign, which encourages consumers to forgo buying new fashion items for the whole of this month.
“These staggering facts about fashion’s impact on the planet and the world’s poorest people should make us all think twice before buying something new to wear. As consumers, it’s in our power to make a real difference,” said Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam GB.
The Oxfam study also warned that the trend of “throwaway fashion” in mature markets has a direct impact on the world’s poorest communities because workers there are paid below the living wage just to keep apparel prices low.
“We can no longer turn a blind eye to the emissions produced by new clothes or turn our backs on garment workers paid a pittance who are unable to earn their way out of poverty no matter how many hours they work,” added Sriskandarajah.
However, an Oxfam-commissioned survey of 1,000 adults in the UK found more than half were not aware that fast fashion damages the environment. More than a third said they would change the way they buy clothes, although, troublingly, almost one in ten admitted they were “not bothered” about the impact of their shopping habits.
Oxfam’s intervention comes amid signs that ethical trading is becoming more important for businesses as consumer awareness grows.
Recent research from The Numbers Lab, for example, has suggested that 20% of young people’s fashion decisions in the UK are driven by perceptions of responsible behaviour.
While Mark Curtis of the Fjord consultancy, which is owned by Accenture Interactive, pointed out in a recent edition of Admap that 62% of consumers are attracted to companies that believe in reducing plastics and improving the environment.
Sourced from Oxfam; additional content by WARC staff