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Why do Post- and Degrowth have momentum right now?

By Carlotta Luisa Kelber

There is no infinite growth on a finite planet. You have probably read this before. It’s a hard fact at odds with the way our society and economic systems are set up now. Businesses strive for constant growth, people want to buy new things. But the reality is that our planet is reaching its boundaries as to what it can provide. To keep our planet inhabitable, we need to reconsider growth as the main pillar of our society and behaviors. The concepts of post- and degrowth offer new perspectives and have gained more and more traction in the last year. But why is that the case, and what can these concepts mean for fashion companies?


“Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist” – Kenneth Boulding

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This article is written by Carlotta Luisa Kelber, who was Sustainability Consulting Intern for The Sustainability Club while studying Fashion Business and Development at AMFI. She specializes in Post- and Degrowth and during her internship at TSC, she researched different strategies for fashion companies to transition to a post-growth future. This research resulted in the report: Post-Growth Toolkit for the Fashion Industry.


"I started studying fashion design with a love for craft, making, and an interest in the broad topic of sustainability. As for most fashion students, producing new things every few months took center stage in my education. At my university, there was always the accompanying question of creating with less impact, but making something was still the goal. This felt like a contradiction in itself.


I felt a strange contradiction between my love for making and the impact that it made. Sustainability and fashion. At one point, I stumbled over these concepts called post- and degrowth, not clear blueprints but ideas that resonated with my feelings, and got in touch with people and authors who thought in the same way. I found a lot of hope within that movement."



GROWTH, IMPACT, AND WELL-BEING


Economic growth, which is the main goal of countries currently, is based on GDP. GDP measures the amount of economic goods and services over time but doesn’t take into account what goods and services are sold or other factors like well-being. A shocking example for me was that looking at GDP, a country at war actually performs better than a country at peace. In a way, the goal of our economies within the overdeveloped western world is purely growing in size but not actually increasing happiness. (1)

But is that not what we should focus on? Increasing well-being, not selling more and more?

I see a connection between countries that strive to grow their GDP and companies in which success is measured by doubling revenue year after year. This form of success also means doubling impact year after year. Environmental and social factors are not part of the equation that measures success. In a way, we could argue sustainability efforts are not “success” if we keep measuring success based on revenue growth.



POST- AND DEGROWTH


Looking at businesses, the concept of Post- and Degrowth purpose exactly that: Let’s shift away from pure revenue growth to creating a better world for all by prioritizing social and ecological well-being. (2)



„Degrowth is an equitable downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions at the local and global level“ - Schneider, 2010 (3)

Let's unpack this complicated definition. Degrowth as a concept is a planned reduction of production and consumption. It is not a recession but rather a democratically planned voluntary shrinking of the economy to lighten environmental pressure. Important to note, that it is not a reduction everywhere; a nuanced approach is required. Degrowth positions itself as a macroeconomic diet for very advanced old capitalistic economies, so-called “obese nations”. These nations must shrink to make room for other economies to grow and reach living standards. The second part of the definition is about well-being. Degrowth emphasizes the importance of enhancing well-being and reducing inequality while shrinking the GDP. (4)

Because that question comes up a lot, we should address what is the difference between Post and Degrowth. In most literature, Degrowth is seen as the transition towards a post-growth future.

Coming back to the question I posed at the beginning, I think Post- and Degrowth have such momentum now because a lot of people slowly have the feeling that the solutions proposed by the current system are not working, and maybe it is time for something completely new.

Keep an eye out for new resources and articles from The Sustainability Club on Post-Growth strategies for fashion companies. Do you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact us at info@thesustainabilityclub.com or send us a DM via Instagram.


 

Written by Carlotta Luisa Kelber, former Sustainability Consulting Intern at The Sustainability Club, and Fashion student at AMFI, specializing in Post- and Degrowth.

 

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