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Monday, September 16, 2013

Strategic CSR - Waste

The article in the url below reviews a book by Elizabeth L. Cline that addresses the consequences of “our never-ending hunt for low-priced clothing.” The over-riding message that is conveyed is one of unnecessary waste:
“In her introduction to Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, the journalist Elizabeth L. Cline recalls buying ‘seven pairs of $7 shoes’ at Kmart. Regret follows, and soon afterward, a wardrobe inventory. When Cline cleans out her closet she discovers, among other things, 61 tops, 60 T-shirts, 15 cardigans and hooded sweatshirts, 21 skirts and 20 pairs of shoes, most of which she never wore.”
My first reaction to this is, ‘Is that all?’ I am guessing there are many with walk-in closets that creak under much greater material excess. But, as the author notes, what she has vastly exceeds what she needs on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps it comes as part of our genetic inheritance from our hunter-gatherer days, but, for some reason, we seem incapable of living within our means. It is a pity, given our obvious capability for ingenuity, that we have created an economic system that seems to impoverish, rather than enable:
“A quote from the former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland comes to mind: ‘Give ’em what they never knew they wanted.’ Fast-­fashion retailers like H&M, Topshop and Forever 21 are great at hawking what we never knew we wanted. Not only that, they offer it at steadily reduced prices. … Quality is no longer an issue, because you need clothes to last just ‘until the next trend comes along.’”
What is equally interesting is that we are willing to place our very superficial concern for material things above the wellbeing of other humans. In addition to the wasted resources, there are social and human costs to the mass-production of cheap t-shirts. It might improve our lives to have someone else do our hard work for us (“Today, the United States makes only 2 percent of the clothing its consumers purchase, compared with roughly 50 percent in 1990”), but there is nothing sustainable (in an holistic sense) in manufacturing clothes thousands of miles away, shipping them to the West, all for under $10. Ultimately, we are worse off as a result:
“The wastefulness encouraged by buying cheap and chasing the trends is obvious, but the hidden costs are even more galling. Cline contends that ‘disposable clothing’ is damaging the environment, the economy and even our souls. … When Cline writes that ‘people crave connections to their stuff,’ she prompts another question: Have we somehow become disconnected from ourselves? If we don’t stop to consider this, we may end up perpetually rushing out to buy more ‘stuff,’ never realizing what we truly need, genuinely want and cannot afford to waste.”
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Attention, Shoppers
By Avis Cardella
February 10, 2013
The New York Times Book Review
Late Edition – Final