It was refreshing to read Ken Pucker’s analysis of fashion’s role in the climate emergency and how businesses have committed to circular propaganda despite remaining wedded to profits. Yet, while it is laudable that sustainability experts and corporate professionals like Pucker have begun to scrutinize linear business models, they continue to overlook the long-existing ecosystem of Black, brown, and Indigenous thought and action on circularity.

As a Black woman with more than 15 years of experience as an independent researcher and nontraditional educator, I have been advocating for a paradigm shift in sustainability to center the ideas and practices of decolonization. Currently, every predominant aspect of sustainability discourse and practice is white-centered. Critiques like Pucker’s fail to consider how white supremacy and colonization—centuries of slavery systems that have built the global capitalist economy, the extraction of Indigenous land and its resources, and the continuous exploitation of Black and brown intellectual property—affect circularity efforts.

The compounding devastation of our climate crisis—from dire reports about carbon emissions to increasingly frequent extreme weather—should compel us to address its intersecting root causes of colonization, racism, and capitalism. Instead, leaders in sustainability are fixated on tweaking the stems, branches, and leaves of the tree, rather than addressing fashion’s colonial system and the capitalist nutrients that keep the invasive tree alive.

Sustainability experts, for example, continue to call for supply-chain transparency. But criticizing the supply chain of corporate businesses, dismissing rote environmental reports that give a nod to decarbonization tactics, and disassembling accountability tools (e.g., certifications) that provide no standardized metrics are low-hanging fruit. These critiques have become redundant and, arguably, have led to no significant improvement in how business is done or in saving our environment. I call this selective focus on secondary climate contributors and their effects our “colonial climate crisis” and believe it is our biggest barrier to circularity.

Read the full article about colonialism and the climate crisis by Dominique Drakeford at Stanford Social Innovation Review.