My name is Yukta Ramanan and I am the Founder and Executive Director at Youth for Ethical Sourcing, an organization hoping to address ethical sourcing through several lenses including, but not limited to, supply chain transparency, human rights, and biodiversity. My hope is that the organization’s advocacy efforts encourage conscious consumerism, particularly amongst the youth.
As a young person growing up in the digital age, I have seen the jarring patterns of youth consumption firsthand. With ever changing trends perpetuated by social media influencers and celebrities, brand deals, and sponsorships, it is incredibly easy to fall on the bandwagon and make impulse purchases. With fast fashion companies like Shein, Boohoo, and Forever 21 selling fashionable articles of clothing for suspiciously low prices, young people — pressured to keep up with the latest fads — find themselves purchasing at alarming rates. While many use the argument that unethical fashion is simply more cost efficient for the average consumer and that most cannot afford sustainably produced goods, this argument is rendered irrelevant. It is not the socioeconomically disadvantaged buyer who occasionally buys fast fashion that contributes largely to the fast fashion problem — it is the consumer that purchases hundreds of dollars’ worth hauls of these items seasonally, despite having the resources to make more conscious choices.
The problems related to sourcing can be fit into three main categories:
Economic: Brands disclose little to no information about their workplace standards, wages, and overall supply chain. Sustainability has become an important prong of consumer decisions, and without transparency in sourcing practices, it is difficult to hold brands accountable. It is essential to understand that until brands meld ethical sourcing into their governance structures and are entirely honest about their business practices, it is up to consumers to change their buying patterns.
Environmental: Ultimately, clothing ends up in landfills. Impulse purchases result in a piece of clothing being worn only once or twice before they are trashed. Synthetic fabrics release microplastics into the ocean and textile production emits greenhouse gases. Mass production and factories disrupt local ecosystems, straining their biodiversity as well.
Human Rights: Several supply chains are imbued with human rights abuses. Some companies even employ child labor due to its cheap costs; children, seeing no other way to feasibly support their families, are forced to abandon their education in favor of making money. Many fast fashion companies take advantage of foreign laborers, paying them menial wages and subjecting them to extremely unsafe working conditions.
Although the future of fashion seems bleak, change is possible — and it stems from the youth. If we re-envision the way we see fashion trends, choosing to reuse, recycle, and occasionally thrift instead of purchasing at first sight, we can flip the switch on ethical sourcing. Instead of spending $100 on 40 pairs of shirts from a fast fashion company — half of which you would only wear a couple times — spend the $100 on 4 durable shirts that are produced ethically. Instead of throwing away a pair of old jeans, choose, instead, to customize and distress them (so long as they still fit). While your actions may seem small, you are making an impact and setting an empathetic precedent.
For other ways to directly get involved, please consider applying for a directorship, fellowship, or partnership with my organization. The short applications can be found at: https://linktr.ee/youthforethicalsourcing. Please also feel free to connect with us across platforms.