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Open Access Increasing sustainability in clothing production and consumption ‐ opportunities and constraints

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

The rapidly rising consumption level of clothing makes it imperative to transform unsustainable consumption and production patterns. Which are the factors that could support or impede a transition to more sustainability? Based on representative empirical results, we discuss attitudes and behaviour related to clothing consumption, and experts’ forecasts of developments in clothing production and market.

The provision and consumption of goods and services are determined by a multitude of economic, technical, social and personal factors as well as by the regulatory framework. In this article it is discussed which factors impede or support a change towards more sustainability in the mass market, using the example of clothing. The spectrum of methods used in the under lying investigations comprises amongst others a representative and an expert survey, focus groups, dialogue boards, and expert interviews. For the consumers, relatively high levels of problem awareness concerning the production conditions for conventional clothing and the desire for environmentally and socially compliant clothing offer opportunities for changes in consumption patterns. However, there are clear differences between the social milieus, and widespread reservations with respect to more sustainable alternatives. The latter, along with many competing factors relevant to purchase decisions, could inhibit the increase in demand for more sustainably produced clothing as predicted in the expert survey. For industry, changes in the fibre materials used and new technologies will allow more sustainable production. However, the necessary rearrangements along the textile chain are hindered by a severe lack of transparency. There is an essential need for generally binding conducive political and legal frame settings.
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Keywords: clothing; social milieus; sustainable consumption; sustainable production

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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  • GAIA is a peer-reviewed inter- and transdisciplinary journal for scientists and other interested parties concerned with the causes and analyses of environmental and sustainability problems and their solutions.

    Environmental problems cannot be solved by one academic discipline. The complex natures of these problems require cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. Since 1991, GAIA has offered a well-balanced and practice-oriented forum for transdisciplinary research. GAIA offers first-hand information on state of the art environmental research and on current solutions to environmental problems. Well-known editors, advisors, and authors work to ensure the high quality of the contributions found in GAIA and a unique transdisciplinary dialogue – in a comprehensible style.

    GAIA is an ISI-journal, listed in the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Science Citation Index and in Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    All contributions undergo a double-blind peer review.

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