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Essay: Unethical Costs Behind Fast Fashion: Exploring Utilitarianism and Virtue Ethics

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Paste your essay in here..Emma Wolfgram

Philosophy 101

Charlotte Figueroa

12 December 2018

Unethical Costs Behind Fast Fashion

In this paper, I will explain that the ethical and environmental costs of clothing in today’s fast fashion economy is best backed by the utilitarian outlook and the support of virtue ethicist. The fashion industry has grown exponentially into a destructive system that maximizes profits for large companies (for example, H&M) meanwhile, violating basic human rights to workers producing the clothing. The ethical egoist and the desire satisfaction theory fail to accommodate the well-being of everyone. Ethical egoism tells us that your life is going well to the extent of getting what you desire. Something is intrinsically good only if it satisfies your desires and because it satisfies your desires. This does not consider the well-being or livelihood of the people responsible for manufacturing your cheap and affordable clothing. It only refers to the customer satisfaction of receiving mass produced clothing at a low cost.  The Second Motivation Argument (found on p.47 in Shafer-Landau) makes a central claim for the desire theory. It declares that life is good only to the extent of getting what you want. It allows for promotion of self interest because you have reason to get what you want, and getting what you want os the key to self-interest. On a compassionate level, a virtue ethicist will act in virtuous character as a way of transforming thoughts, perceptions, and motivations. We need to educate moral understanding and practical wisdom in order to combat the tragedies that continually occur in the fast fashion industry. In addition, utilitarianism seeks to maximize happiness, pleasure, and improvement to a net worth of well-being for maximum people. The following will go in depth of this global issue and its repercussions; explain the extent to which these theories provide support; and evaluate why the better equipped theories (utilitarianism and virtue ethics) will make efforts to help improve the quality of the fashion industry.

Taking a look at the intertwined problems with fast fashion, we see that the severity of this industry has been taking a major hit to our planet. It has been calculated that one in every six people alive today, work in some part of the global fashion industry. Very few people involved have any say in their human rights and what happens in the larger supply chain. The industry has transformed so quickly that even the cotton plants can’t keep up. About ninety-seven percent of the clothing sold in the United States is outsourced from developing nations (Morgan). Fast fashion demands for such extreme production rates that cutting corners and overlooking safety regulations has become an accepted part of doing business.

Just outside of Bangladesh, on April 24, 2013, a garment factory building collapsed, killing over a thousand workers. The factory owner, Sohel Rana, ignored prior warnings of unsafe conditions from the workers and construction approvals. Rana demanded for laborers to return back to work and he paid off officials to disregard the cracked walls and violated building codes. The building was illegally constructed in efforts to employ more workers in one building (Yardley). This tragedy has been of many in the garment industry; hundreds of people lose their lives for factory fires, structural failures in buildings, physical abuse inflicted upon workers protesting for basic human rights, the list goes on. Unions have limited the power of the workers to a minimum, they do not care what it takes, they just want cheap clothes for maximum profit. Fast fashion wants to be rapid, so the garment worker has to produce faster. Third world countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and parts of China are desperate for business so they are tied to their work. If they ask for better wages and safe regulations at work, the retail company will pick up their business and find another impoverished population willing do the job for cheap. The threat of losing business altogether weakens the voice of the people and strengthens the power of the retail owners and CEOs. The leading selling point of the fashion industry driving the U.S. economy is the materialism. Propaganda advertisements are telling the consumer (with new trends every week) that you need this thing to look good, but once you buy it and put it on, you are not pretty enough, skinny enough, or tall enough to wear it. “But don’t give up now, there is already a new trend coming out that you need to buy. It’s only ten bucks! Why wouldn’t you buy it?” and the cycle continues. The fashion system has redesigned itself into a “perfectly engineered nightmare for the workers trapped inside it” (Morgan).

Over eighty pounds of non-biodegradable textile waste is thrown away annually by the average American. The evidence is blatant when you take a look at the landfills. The waste has been steadily rising over the past decade (Morgan). Catherine Charlot, an upcycling designer working in Haiti, talks about the Pepe disease. Only about ten percent of the clothes that America donates is actually sold in thrift stores.

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