We’ve recently written about how coronavirus is impacting fast fashion short term; from supply chains through to highlighting the essential role of compliance. But it’s also important to consider the long term impacts – especially on sustainability. 


Before COVID-19, the environmental impact of fashion production and a drive to focus on genuine sustainability was a high priority for many brands and consumers. But coronavirus has created huge challenges across the industry, with reduced investment in sustainability a real risk. However, COVID 19 has highlighted the real benefits of a more sustainable outlook, including shorter supply chains, less demand for fast fashion and more local production with better control and compliance measures.


In this article, we’ll take a further look at some of the potential impacts on sustainability due to coronavirus.


Will the reduced consumer demand for fast fashion continue


Even before coronavirus, there were signs that the shopping habits of Gen Z were changing, with consumers in this group valuing lasting fashion and quality over cheap fashion fixes.  Lockdowns have continued to bolster this trend, with shoppers unable to shop in stores for many months. Although online demand has skyrocketed, in a post-Covid world, these changing shopping habits may support lasting focus on fashion sustainability, with greater transparency and investment in quality demanded by consumers.


Retailers are likely to need to switch to an online driven model, but it’s also important that they place genuine quality and sustainability at the heart of their collections and manufacturing. Brands supplying cheap, unsustainable fashion hits are likely to fall out of favour with consumers long-term; while fashion brands embracing the need for genuine sustainability will align well with consumer spending choices.


Environmental impacts can’t be forgotten about 


Before the global pandemic, the use of single use plastics, and how to massively reduce their impact and prevalence was a huge concern across the globe. But COVID 19 has resulted in a reduced focus on reducing single use plastics. While this is understandable, there are already concerns over PPE waste entering oceans, highlighting a further long term impact from coronavirus not immediately obvious.


Another environmental concern is how retail brands will dispose of out of season, piled up clothes that will remain unsold. In order to address vital eco impacts due to the fashion industry, sustainability efforts must not be pushed to the side.


Trust in brands will become a key driver behind sustainability


From healthcare messages, through to political plans and strategies, trust has become a vital component and expectation throughout the COVID 19 pandemic. And this is no different within the fashion industry, with consumers now expecting much more transparency and corporate responsibility from brands they buy from. This is good news for sustainability – with trust expectations driving better supply chain compliance and more impactful eco-policies. Expectations, and trust in brands to source and manufacture responsibly will be vital – and fashion brands must address this if they want to stay current and profitable. 


COVID 19 will impact the future sustainability of fashion

It’s undeniable – as with every industry across the globe, coronavirus will have a lasting impact on the fashion and textile industry. But past the more short term impacts on production and profits, sustainability will be hugely impacted. Unless actively guarded against, reduced investment due to coronavirus pressures may push sustainability off the agenda – including more lax eco measures in disposal and production. But there are also opportunities too, with consumers more willing to embrace a more sustainable future, supporting brands who do so with their valuable trust and loyalty. 


Textile Consult is a management and training consultancy operating worldwide. We’re currently working with clients to find the best sustainable solutions in the textile industry. Contact us to find out how we can advise your business on sustainable textile solutions.