Big corporations are competing to be the “most sustainable” releasing sustainability reports and processes such as decreasing energy and water use, optimizing packaging, and improving recycling to reduce operational costs by asking suppliers in the Global South about their cost structures. This allows them to further exploit these suppliers and ask for even lower prices risking suppliers financial sustainability, forcing them to cut labor costs and forcing them to use cheaper fuels in production at expense of the environment. Using sustainability to increase brand value will only increase wealth disparities, these gains will be used to further expand and mass produce.
It’s not enough to make everything efficient and use technology to solve our problems If we are still producing and consuming at an infinite rate. This unquenchable need for profit and growth at all costs is exactly what got us here in the first place.
So what is the path forward?
A lot of answers are pointing to De-growth an economic ideology reimagining a world based on sufficiency.
Degrowth aims to create and consume only what is needed while providing social, economic and environmental justice.
According to the creators of Degrowth,
"Degrowth critiques the global capitalist system which pursues growth at all costs, causing human exploitation and environmental destruction".
Movements like the #NoNewClothes campaign by Remake and the "Buy Nothing" movement promote degrowth and concsious choices in the material world. This creates room for creativity, custom solutions, collaborations and repurposing what you have in unique ways.
Degrowth is exciting because it opens up new ways for us to interact with fashion and other components of daily life. You can collaborate with tailors, designers, artisans, farmers, and communities. Core values of Degrowth are creating communities of care, biodiversity, regenerative agriculture, circularity, repairing, recycling, upcycling and decentralizing our systems. “The shift towards more democratic forms of ownership — cooperatives, non-profits, foundations — is the most powerful thing we can do for sustainability and to degrow the economy,” says Post Growth Institute executive director Donnie Maclurcan (via Vogue Business).
Degrowth is crucial step towards climate justice, but businesses and political systems do not have an interest in public opinion. A common misconception is that Degrowth will cause many job losses. However, Earth Logic’s Tham says Degrowth is not a recession, it’s a planned reduction. This is why we need help and legislation from political systems.
Businesses have another part to play in scaling down their operations. Companies must stop relying on fossil fuels, out sourced labor and harmful practices in order to survive in this world, which means a gutting change to their business models to scale down and be equitable. The harsh reality for corporations, is that revenues will be smaller, but everything will shrink with it.
"We all have been conditioned to crave one scalable technological solution that answers all our problems time and time again with movies, media always looking to inventions from western scientists."
"We are failing to acknowledge a broken system that goes beyond planetary bounds and takes more than it gives."
Indigenous voices and systems are rarely considered for implementation. There are many thriving economic examples from BIPOC communities that work based on “community involvement, union and social activism, decentralization, cooperative forms of organization, and radical and democratic ecological experimentation” (source: Stefano Ponte for Science Nordic)
We must champion Indigenous leaders and follow their lead to create a degrowth framework across, industries, governments and people. It won't be a perfect journey but a shift in how we create and value our world.