From below or from above: How to force fashion MNCs to be more sustainable
Author: Emese Dobos
In: Society and Economy, 18 Aug 2023
Multinational companies in the fashion industry operate on a global level. Fashion was one of the first industries that outsourced production to developing countries and allowed exploitation and environmental pollution to remain hidden. But concerns regarding the industry’s (un)sustainability are rising, regarding both the environmental and the social aspects. Fashion consumption is on the rise and the industry is among the most polluting ones. With this paper, I join the debate on how to force fashion MNCs to operate sustainably. There are two opposing views on where change should come: from above (regulation) or from below (change in customer habits and the activity of sustainable fashion NGOs). According to one view, fashion is underregulated and only legislation can be a solution: MNCs will only operate sustainably if they are forced by law. The other group claims that customers should drive green initiatives as their demand catalyzes MNC production. I claim that neither side is enough, as sustainability is not necessarily the number one consideration for customers or policymakers. In this conceptual paper, I use document analysis as a qualitative approach, and descriptive statistics to support my position.