Distributor:  Global Environmental Justice
Length:  92 minutes
Date:  2015
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Bengali; English / English subtitles
Grade level: Viewer Advisory: Includes footage of injured and dead due to collapse of garment factory.
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
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The True Cost

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An investigative look into the environmental costs of the fast fashion industry, from production—and the life of low wage workers in developing countries—to its after-effects such as river and soil pollution, pesticide contamination, disease and death.

The True Cost

Investigation of fast fashion reveals that while the price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. It discusses several aspects of the garment industry from production—mainly exploring the life of low wage workers in developing countries—to its after-effects such as river and soil pollution, pesticide contamination, disease and death. Includes interviews with activists and workers. Includes a take action campaign.

Website summary: This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing? Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost is an unprecedented project that invites us on an eye opening journey around the world and into the lives of the many people and places behind our clothes.


"This is the very best of all the documentaries I have seen about the fashion industry...The filmmakers show how clothing companies waste the lives of young women in the 'third world.' Their greed also threatens the 'first world' in a way that ultimately threatens the planet. This is a film you must see!" -- Ellen Rosen, Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis University, Author, Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry

The True Cost
Review for Video Librarian by J. Zimmerman 
12 April 2013 Four and one-half stars  ****

Any documentary series about environmental racism and global economics would benefit from the addition of The True Cost. Consider placing this title in a film programming series about the fashion industry.

‘Fast Fashion’ has become a buzzword in the last decade. When most people hear the word, they think of an endless parade of models, some big-name brands, and cheap clothing. What -or rather who- gets forgotten is the workers responsible for making the clothing. Every year as housing, food, and utility prices continue to rise, Old Navy still sells jeans for around $20.

Every year, a handful of fashion companies make billions on those prices which refuse to go up. How do they manage this? The True Cost is an investigation into exactly that question. Economic experts, fashion designers, activists, workers, and shop managers are all interviewed in this deep dive into the true costs behind the fast fashion industry.

This unique investigative documentary seeks to show us the face behind our clothing. America used to produce over 95% of its own clothing before the introduction of globalized economics. When the factory work moved to developing countries, so did the production. Now, what once was a relatively sustainable practice that produced quality, long-lasting goods has become one of the most wasteful and under-appreciated industries on the planet. Director Andrew Morgan guides us through dozens of factories in several countries, searching for an answer to the question, “What is the true cost of fast fashion?”

We are shown hundreds of people (though only a handful lend their voices to the documentary) who have been directly affected by the many-headed hydra that is the modern fashion industry. Most have faced a lack of compensation for their ever-increasing labor while others reel from the environmental effects of mismanaged factory waste and toxic chemicals used in the dying of clothes. One thing which ties these people together is their lack of basic human rights, enforced in part by legislation at home and abroad funded by fashion and retail giants like H&M and Walmart.

Those who oppose change are given some space too, though their main question seems incredibly inhuman: “Are sweatshops really that bad?” The True Cost presents evidence overlooked or deemed unimportant by investors that both amateur and professional ecologists will want to see. Highly Recommended.

What academic subjects would this film be suitable for?

Fashion, business, and ecology classes would benefit most from viewing The True Cost.

How does this film contribute to a discussion of environmental or climate justice, and/or to environmental literacy?

The True Cost contributes greatly to a global discussion of environmental and climate justice. Its greatest strength is allowing textile workers in South and Southeast Asia to speak their truth and asking the viewer to think critically about the human cost of one of our most wasteful industries.

What type of library programming could use this title?

Any documentary series about environmental racism and global economics would benefit from the addition of The True Cost. Consider placing this title in a film programming series about the fashion industry.


Main credits

Morgan, Andrew (screenwriter)
Morgan, Andrew (film director)
Morgan, Andrew (narrator)
Ross, Michael (film producer)
Ross, Michael (film editor)
Siegle, Lucy (interviewee)

Other credits

Original music, Duncan Blickenstaff; editor, Michael Ross.

Distributor credits

Michael Ross

Andrew Morgan

Director – Andrew Morgan
Producer – Michael Ross
Executive Producer – Lucy Siegle, Livia Firth, Vincent Vittorio, Christopher L. Harvey
Associate Producer – Laura Piety

Docuseek subjects

Environmental Justice
North American Studies
Toxic Chemicals
Environmental Health
Illness, Disease and Disorders
Americas, The
Toxic Waste
Working Conditions
Occupational Health and Safety
Corporate Social Responsibility
Citizenship, Social Movements and Activism
Human Rights
Race and Racism
Global / International Studies
Communication and Media Studies
Journalism and the Press
Media Literacy
Environmental Education
South Asia
United States
Asian Studies

Distributor subjects

Asian Studies
Corporate Social Responsibility
Labour Studies
Occupational Health and Safety
Trade Unions
United States


Capitalism, Consumerism, clothing, Conscious Consumer, Eco- fashion, Eco-friendly, fashion, Environmental Sustainability, "Fast Fashion", garment industry, Labor Rights, Labor Unions; "The True Cost "; Global Environmental Justice

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