Monday, 23 November 2015

2012 A fire at a clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, kills over 110 people.

Global inequities and emissions in Western European textiles and clothing consumption


We assess the sustainability of Western European textiles & clothing consumption.
Impacts are analysed over 15 years at both regional & sectoral scales.
We find large labour and wage inequities between BRIC and Western Europe.
Carbon emissions fell slightly 1995–2009 but the trend was not linear.
We argue that increasing BRIC wages could reduce both inequity & environmental impact.


Rising demand for cheaper textiles and clothing in Western Europe is well documented, as are changes in the Textiles and Clothing industry's globalised production structure. We apply a sub-systems global multi-regional input–output accounting framework to examine the sustainability implications of meeting Western European demand for textiles and clothing goods between 1995 and 2009. Our framework estimates environmental and socio-economic impacts of consumption in a consistent manner and shows where these occur both geographically and in the value chain. The results demonstrate that Western European textiles and clothing consumption remains dependent on low-cost labour from Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), principally in the Textiles and Clothing and Agricultural sectors. Conversely, we show that the wage rate for BRIC workers in the global value chains serving Western European textiles and clothing consumption has risen over time but remains low relative to the wage rate paid to Western European workers. Likewise, we find that profits are increasingly generated within BRIC and that they are now at comparable levels to those generated in Western Europe. We find a slight overall decrease in the amount of carbon emitted in the production of textiles and clothing goods for Western Europe between 1995 and 2009. However, the trend is not linear and the importance of different underlying drivers varies over the timeseries. We conclude by discussing the implications of these results for a more sustainable future for Western European textiles and clothing consumption.


  • Textiles & clothing;
  • Carbon footprint;
  • Social footprint;
  • Input–output analysis;
  • Globalisation;
  • Global value chains

Corresponding author. Tel.: +44 7706785676.