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LONDON – Consumers would have to pay an extra 44 cents on the cost of a basic T-shirt in the US in order to factor in social and environmental costs, claims new research. Researchers writing in the International Journal of Lifecycle Assessment developed the concept of the Sustainability Price (SP) of a garment in order to include social and environmental costs in the price of goods and to move towards a sustainable economy, as recommended by the UN Global Sustainability Panel.

The findings of the study suggest that addressing absolute poverty and “dangerous climate change” for the production of a T-shirt in India would only add about 2 per cent or 44 cents to the retail price in a country such as the USA.

The results also captured technological and spatial ‘hotspots’ in garment production and found, for instance, indirect greenhouse emissions from inputs such as fertilisers and electricity had a larger effect on the SP than fuels used directly in each process.

In terms of social issues, they found that the living wage gap was greatest in the production of cotton rather than in the cut and sewing operations for making the T-shirt. Added the paper: “The living wage gap was also large in particular states such as Gujarat which produces about one third of the cotton in India. The importance of agriculture for living wages in India and the relatively small SP gap for the retail price in Western countries were typical of textile products exported from India to the West.

“The SP has the potential to be applied to policy such as the labelling of ethical trade products by quantifying the payments required for living wages for producers and informing the consumer of the SP gap.”

Further details and analysis of this paper will appear in the next printed edition of Apparel Insider. For subscriptions click HERE

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