The Style of Sustainability: Private Business Appropriation of an Environmental Movement

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Marian Chertow
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As the term sustainability has greatly increased in popularity and become a part of common dialogues throughout the last decade, the word reflects a shifting movement. The new sustainability is forced to encompass meanings of economic viability and social responsibility in addition to the environmental connotation. This thesis examines the means by which American businesses have appropriated the term sustainability to justify economic decisions. Through the lens of United States apparel manufacturing, companies with and without explicit environmental agendas use sustainability as a marketing tool. In attempts to validate sustainable apparel claims, the lack of industry standardization is uncovered. Little regulation exists; prompting companies to turn to both non-transparent and non-quantified coalitions of sustainability indexing. This clear gap in industry standardization demands a regulatory overhaul for defining sustainability.