It’s no longer a once-in-a-while sales trick. Nor it’s confined to one product, or one market or a particular season. Called it a ‘strategy’, the ‘offer’ almost pervades 365 days in a year. Inevitably, the temptation compels people to buy more than they require—forgetting the adverse impact on the environment and other fellow human beings.
The consequences are adverse. It tends to ruin an individual’s financial discipline—if not checked, could suck him/her into a debt trap. The over production, naturally, gorge natural resources—causing severe damage to the environment. The most visible aspect of this rising trend is declining ground water and scarcity of safe drinking water. Yes, they are co-related.
The effect on human development is far from flattering. The first casualty is health. Despite large scale mechanization of production, human interface play a significant role in majority of supply-chains. With sub-contracting being the norm, the workers, naturally, are made to work more—to overproduce.
Apart from long hours, a job that requires three persons is sadly performed by one. Although the earning is higher, the stress caused by overwork slowly imposes a cost on the health. Poor health translates into more expenditure—sometimes more than the income. Worse, there are cases of higher socio-economic status achieved through hard work is reduced to penury after a major illness caused by stress.
Garments and fashion industry are one of the top offenders. The attitude of the consumers is equally deplorable. The majority of those who buy don’t utilize the apparel to the hilt. The wastage on the resources is formidable if one takes into account the amount of packaging material deployed to wrap the beautiful apparels.
A report, created by Global Fashion Agenda and Sustainable Apparel Coalition in partnership with Boston Consulting Group, uses a scoring system called the Pulse Index to evaluate fashion companies’ sustainability goals and implementation efforts. It showed that while the fashion industry enhanced its overall score to six points in 2017, in 2018 that score decreased to only four points. The other pointers are not healthy. About 11 percent of India’s export business is from the garment industry. The effect on the environment is huge.
The sliding in eco-friendly measures is disappointing. Anita Dongre, an Indian fashion designer who with its brand runs Grassroot—a division dedicated to ethical fashion commented a while ago, “Somewhere we underplay ourselves, and as a country we’re very sustainable, but we try to ape the West and have become more materialistic. 30 years ago, we lived so mindfully—for instance we always had steel tiffins and never plastic. We always conserved; we were very mindful about wasting food. We have rich culture that we can imbibe from, there’s so much we can still learn from the villages of India.”
Quality also suffers—and by default durability. How much processes can be streamlined and refined that price of a product diminishes over a period of time when the cost of other variables in the production loop is rising. Easy access to finance made available to chosen few is building these unsustainable bubbles. Worse, it is altering human behavior by creating a culture of use and throw.
The biggest irony is that over production is practiced in an age when advanced IT tools, AI and Analytics can measure the approximate demand of a product catering to the targeted customers. Why then the old mindset of oversupply to create demand to make a venture profitable? It is not just the responsibility of civil society, but all citizens—to review and rethink.
Small changes might not appear big. But they will have a big impact in saving our resources and increase the sustainable practices across the industries.
The ‘game of overproduction’ benefits hardly anyone. It’s high time we discard it.