Leadership Sustainability

Tackling the Fast Fashion crisis through behavioral change3 min read

May 28, 2024 2 min read


Tackling the Fast Fashion crisis through behavioral change3 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutesReading Time: 2 minutes

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, The Lingering Cost of Instant Fashion, Kenneth P. Pucker analyzes the instant fashion industry’s rapid growth and detrimental impacts. Pucker, a former COO of Timberland and a senior lecturer at the Fletcher School outlines how this business model prioritizes quick production and low prices, resulting in significant human and environmental costs.

Fast fashion crisis

Instant fashion operates by using advanced data analytics to predict trends and rapidly produce high volumes of trendy clothing at low prices. This model relies on just-in-time manufacturing and swift supply chains. However, the dangers are profound: it exploits cheap labor, causing poor working conditions, and generates massive environmental pollution and waste. To mitigate these issues, stricter regulations on labor and environmental standards are essential, alongside a cultural shift towards more sustainable consumer practices and increased supply chain transparency.

What can we do about it?

Considering this problem, it is interesting to analyze how Dr. Caroline Rook, an expert in leadership at Henley Business School, has been exploring approaches for coaches and leaders that can facilitate behavioral change. Dr. Rook emphasizes the importance of various coaching approaches.

These approaches are:

  • Behavioral Approach: Uses rewards and punishments to shape behavior.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Approach: Focuses on changing thoughts to influence behavior.
  • Person-Centred Approach: Emphasizes self-determination and personal growth.
  • Gestalt Approach: Highlights the holistic experience and present awareness.
  • Psychodynamic Approach: Explores unconscious motivations and barriers.
  • Solution-Focused Approach: Concentrates on solutions and goal achievement.

Applying Dr. Rook’s insights to the fast fashion dilemma involves utilizing various coaching approaches to help different actors succeed in their goals to change the industry:

1. Business Owners:

    Goal: Transition to sustainable practices in production and supply chains.
    Task: Adopt sustainable practices, train employees on ethical standards, and incentivize sustainability, for example, using person-centered coaching, which emphasizes individual self-determination and growth, fostering a culture of sustainability.

2. Government:

    Goal: Implement and enforce sustainable practices in the fashion industry.
    Task: Develop and enforce regulations, launch public awareness campaigns, and promote understanding of sustainable practices, for instance, using practices of cognitive-behavioral techniques, which focus on changing thinking patterns to influence behaviors positively.

3. Consumers:

    Goal: Embrace sustainable fashion choices.
    Task: Shift purchasing habits towards sustainable fashion, support eco-friendly brands, and use Gestalt coaching to enhance mindfulness in shopping habits, promoting thoughtful consumption.

4. Fashion Industry Workers:

    Goal: Advocate for and implement sustainable practices.
    Task: Participate in sustainability training and workshops, and apply, for example, practices of psychodynamic coaching to address deep-seated motivations and barriers, helping workers overcome internal obstacles to change.


To combat the fast fashion crisis, immediate and decisive actions are necessary from all stakeholders, but first of all, business owners. They should lead by example, adopting sustainable practices and fostering ethical behavior through comprehensive employee training. Governments must also enact and enforce robust regulations and launch awareness campaigns to foster a culture of sustainability. By collectively embracing these behavioral change strategies, we can pave the way for a more sustainable future in the fashion industry.


Dr. Caroline Rook is a Lecturer in Leadership at Henley Business School. Caroline’s research relates to creating healthy and productive workplaces by exploring the links between leadership and well-being in organizations. Caroline teaches on the Henley Business School MBA Programmes, MA Leadership, and Professional Certificate in Coaching.