Careers in Sustainability | Accountability in the Fashion Industry

 

 

The fashion industry’s evolution towards more sustainable practice has been accompanied by a growing need for sustainability professionals to carry out green initiatives. As such, a series of brands – including those like Chanel, Coach, and Ralph Lauren – have started to introduce novel, sustainability-oriented positions, ensuring their practices are in accordance with environmental and social responsibilities.

 

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A notoriously problematic landscape, the fashion industry has, for years, been attemptedly progressing towards a more inclusive, more sustainable way of being. Albeit gradual, this progression has been met with much optimism from a number of brands, who are making necessary shifts to accommodate sustainable mentalities in their methods of production and design. Essential to the sustainability movement is the notion of accountability – brands, along with consumers, have become increasingly aware of the devastating effects of industry practice, and it is up to these brands to make a clear and conscious effort towards reducing the impact of their work.

The surge in sustainable fashion pioneers – whether this be at the brand, company, or individual level – has given rise to a series of new industry jobs never before heard of or imagined. The transformation of business models into greener operations has been accompanied by a need for skilled individuals who possess the necessary knowledge and qualifications to direct and lead sustainable initiatives. As such – and as brands continue to seek guidance to ease this transition – there have been growing job opportunities within the fashion industry for sustainability professionals.

 

 
 
 
 

 

In recognition of the waste and consumption that happens at each phase of the production process – from design to manufacture to eventual distribution – these jobs artfully span throughout brands’ supply value chain. While many jobs are overarching and all-inclusive, such as “Fashion Sustainability Manager” or “Corporate Social Responsibility Consultant,” others are more catered to individual processes – for example, “Conscious Fashion Designer” or “Sustainable Textile Specialist.”

These roles are, of course, still relatively new and job descriptions are only loosely structured. Reformation’s own Chief Sustainability Officer and VP of Operations, Kathleen Talbot, remarks on her own role that "One of the toughest challenges in my career was creating a job for myself that hadn't existed before." Each position’s job descriptions therefore vary slightly, but the overall gist is that, within whatever role one is cast, they have a mutual obligation to reconcile social and environmental responsibility while simultaneously driving a profitable business. Potential issues – for example, excessive water consumption, toxic dye usage, or wage inequalities – must be acknowledged and addressed, while new and innovative sustainable practices must be promoted.

 

 
 
 
 

Several job boards have emerged to help give visibility to ever increasing, perhaps not dually popular, sustainable career opportunities ranging from internship to professional, spanning across the entire globe. Even Business of Fashion (BoF) job boards highlight sustainability positions, offering a wide and varied selection of picks ranging from “Sustainability Expert - Chemical Management” to “Senior Specialist - Fraud and Abuse.” Renowned brands like Hugo Boss, Coach, Ralph Lauren, J.Crew, and Chanel – to name a few – are starting to take sustainable initiatives in the form of hiring experts to help refine their practices.

It is, then, rather apparent that companies are starting to center sustainability in their practices, incorporating standard protocols throughout their supply value chain from design on upwards all the way to the actual production of their pieces. While still few and far between, the introduction of sustainability-oriented jobs is a promising industry norm that serves to encourage a shift towards a more inclusive and accommodating fashion landscape. 

 
 

Highlight Image:
@ Unsplash, Shridhar Gupta

+ Words:
Tori Palone
Luxiders Magazine