Extreme weather has a major impact on the fashion industry. It's not just about warm weather when winter clothes are already in shops, but also disasters in manufacturing countries. Consider, for example, the floods in Pakistan in 2022, during which cotton farming felt the impact. Research by Cornell University and investment firm Schroders now shows that four of the world's largest manufacturing countries could lose 65 billion dollars in income due to extreme weather.
The study found that among the fashion production countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam and Cambodia are most at risk. Thus, a 22 percent drop in income for these countries is expected by the end of 2030. How this calculation was arrived at is not entirely clear from the accompanying information to the study. Together, these four countries account for 18 percent of global apparel exports, according to the report.
Extreme weather is billion-dollar cost for fashion industry if no action is taken
Extreme weather takes various forms. For instance, garment workers face extreme heat and humidity, but there is also the risk of flooding. Major manufacturing centres such as Dhaka, Phnom Penh, Karachi, Lahore, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are at increased risk of flooding.
If manufacturing is done with a 'business as usual' approach, the damage cost of extreme weather is about 65 billion dollars, the study noted. If factories actively work to reduce heat stress for employees, some of these costs are already preventable, the report said. The paper also recommended that there are options to give employees paid leave during extreme weather and that work may be stopped under these conditions. It is also good to think about moving factories to places where there are fewer risks. The researchers did stress that fashion brands also have a role to play here and should help their suppliers take this step.
"Losses and climate-related harm to suppliers and employees are seen by brands as externalities - it's someone else's problem," said Jason Judd, executive director of Cornell's Global Labor Institute, in a statement. "Employees need investment now because standards for extreme heat and flood protection is not there now."
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.NL. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.