On April 14, 2020, my Sustainability and the Future of Fashion class, along with various other LIM College students and faculty, had the pleasure of hearing from Karenna Gore over Zoom. After listening to what Karenna Gore, founder of the Center for Earth Ethics, had to say, I was left with many compelling thoughts about business ethics in the fashion industry, as well as considerations about the effects of the coronavirus.
Karenna began by saying that the two main problems we are dealing with are emissions and depletion. She explained that ethics questions right and wrong and how we live—but, while law and ethics are similar, they are not the same as they do not always match up.
The main topic of interest during this discussion was the COVID-19 virus. Karenna mentioned that this virus has frequently been referred to as “the great pause” as the coronavirus has put the world on pause, so to speak. In response to this issue, many fashion brands have canceled previously placed orders to prevent companies from losing money. However, Karenna pointed out that although there is nothing wrong with this in the face of the law, it is arguably unethical as it is unfair to put that cost on the manufacturing workers. In this way, she explained we need to acquire a deeper understanding of ethics, as lawful acts are not always the right choice.
The most compelling detail Karenna shared was something that the Church of Sweden explained: When making environmental / ecological decisions, we must leave three chairs open for: the poor and marginalized; future generations; non-human life (i.e. plants and animals). Karenna noted there will be 200 million climate refugees by 2050 as a result of climate change. The COVID-19 virus is a “time of revealing,” as she put it. It shows how interconnected we all are and reveals inequalities, vulnerability, and that change must be made.
In my opinion, it is important to understand social justice and ethics because sustainability goes deeper than just using recycled cotton—everything is interconnected. To change the fate of our future, we must understand how everyone and everything is negatively affected by our decisions. If we can show what is wrong, we can come up with necessary solutions. All action first stems from an understanding of the problem. I left the virtual conversation with Karenna Gore feeling more informed and more aware. She gave me a new perspective on not only the fashion industry but the world in general.