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Industry Experts Discuss Sustainability of Fast Fashion

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By Molly Fleenor, Assistant Director of Communications

As retail companies respond to the demand to provide consumers with more, cheaper, and faster products, many leading fashion companies have gained reputations for being polluters, human rights abusers, or outliers in the movement toward social responsibility.

The Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business hosted a discussion, “Is Fast Fashion Sustainable?”

Vishal Agrawal, assistant professor of operations, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, moderated a discussion with a panel of industry experts who looked at how companies of all sizes can play a role in reforming how consumers buy, wear, and dispose of their clothes.  

“Big brand are using their marketing dollars to get consumers to think about their products’ implications on the world, whereas small brands don't necessarily get that level of attention,” said Shivika Sinha, director of digital marketing. “However, in the age of social media, consumers are taking more quickly into their own hands the accountability of their own brands. The brands that will succeed are the ones that align with their consumers’ wallets and social values.”

“The point is that corporate social responsibility issues are tough issues for all companies,” said Bennett Freeman, senior advisor of Know the Chain.  “The transparency and the size of it is painful. Winning the war will take decades."

The panelists also discussed sourcing and supply chain issues facing the fashion industry.

“The status quo in the fashion industry is never sustainable,” said Pietra Rivoli, professor of finance and international business, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, and author of Travels of a T-shirt in a Global Economy. “There has been a long, historical narrative around supply chain issues, dating as far back as the Industrial Revolution. We must take a high level perspective of looking at how to make things better among broad categories of issues that do not change over time, such as environmental laws, labor rights, child protection rights, or innovative business practices.”

“Nothing is easy in the fashion industry,” said Lisa Thompson, founder and CEO, Ivy Citizens. “There is a large push from consumers to understand where their goods come from and who is supplying them. “


The Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business delivers world-class education, research and actionable solutions to cross-sector leaders seeking to create lasting social, economic, and environmental impact. Through practical training for Georgetown students and executives in the United States and worldwide, the initiative promotes transformative solutions to the world’s significant challenges in health and well-being, economic growth, the environment, and international development.