Onshoring fashion: Worker sustainability impacts of global and local apparel production

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Recently “onshoring,” manufacturing products for local markets from regional suppliers and producers, has gained traction in the U.S. “Onshoring” is contrasted with “offshoring” or moving production to countries with lower wages and fewer environmental and safety regulations. Moving manufacturing operations effects people, communities, economies, and the environment worldwide. Offshoring steadily eroded U.S. apparel manufacturing capabilities while U.S. apparel demand skyrocketed according to American Association of Footwear and Apparel statistics. This research developed a simplified prospective sustainability life cycle assessment (LCA) method to compare global sustainability impacts of onshoring and offshoring legging production in the fast-growing athleisure apparel market segment. A proof-of-concept legging design demonstrated that technical capability exists regionally in the Eastern U.S. for supply and production. Sustainability LCA impacts were measured globally to compare effects to workers from onshoring to the U.S. with offshoring to Sri Lanka to produce garments for U.S. consumers. Results suggest greater worker environmental impacts exist when producing leggings in Sri Lanka than the U.S. largely due to electricity generation differences. Worker safety concerns for garment workers in Sri Lanka were found to be greater than in the U.S. However, economic benefits for workers were better in Sri Lanka than the U.S. because Sri Lankan apparel workers receive middle-class wages, whereas U.S. counterparts do not. Whether onshoring or offshoring apparel production, sustainability tradeoffs exist. U.N. sustainable development goals encourage strategies to improve sustainability for apparel workers worldwide instead of specifying where production occurs.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages1206-1218
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume208
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 20 2019

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Sustainable development
sustainability
manufacturing
wage
Wages
life cycle
Life cycle
safety
market
electricity generation
assessment method
sustainable development
environmental impact
Environmental impact
offshoring
Apparel
Sustainability
Workers
Electricity
Statistics

Keywords

  • Apparel industry
  • Apparel product development
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Sustainable sourcing

Cite this

Onshoring fashion : Worker sustainability impacts of global and local apparel production. / Clarke-Sather, Abigail R; Cobb, Kelly.

In: Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 208, 20.01.2019, p. 1206-1218.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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