The impact that the global fashion industry has on the planet is certainly no secret, responsible for ten percent of the world’s carbon emissions, as well as a huge amount of waste that goes to landfills each year.
Fast fashion is a big part of the problem, with declines in garment quality making it hard for people to keep items over the long term and constantly changing trends encouraging shoppers to buy more in order to stay up to date.
Figures from Sustain Your Style show that 400 percent more clothes are produced now in comparison to 20 years ago, 80 billion garments are produced each and every year, and fast fashion brands are releasing 52 micro-collections annually.
The consequence of this is that 35kg of textile waste is being generated per person every year in the US, on average, with just 20 to 30 percent of wardrobes being worn. On average, a garment is worn seven times before it is thrown away.
To help address the issue, the European Commission has developed a new EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, designed to address the production and consumption of materials, while recognising the importance of the sector as a whole.
In terms of climate change and environmental impact, EU textile consumption is the fourth highest on the list, just after food, housing, and mobility. It also comes third for water consumption and land usage, as well as fifth for use of primary raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions.
The new strategy will strive to create a greener and more competitive textiles industry, implementing commitments of the European Green Deal, as well as the industrial strategy and the new circular economy action plan.
The Commission’s 2030 Vision for Textiles is that all products on the EU market are durable, repairable, and recyclable, as well as made of recycled fibers, free from hazardous substances, and respectfully produced in terms of both social rights and the environment.
From a brand perspective, this will come with all sorts of benefits and you’re likely to find that adopting more sustainable practices and becoming more eco-conscious across your entire supply chain can actually be very good for business indeed.
Being green may require a bit of outlay and investment at first but, over time, you’ll find that you can save yourself a lot of money by focusing on sustainability. You’ll reduce business costs, improve your business reputation and become more competitive – which, ultimately, will see your bottom line increase.
As for your customers, you’ll likely see that there’s a growing appetite among consumers to shop and spend with brands that are eco-conscious and prioritising sustainability… so it makes good business sense to make this a focus in the near future.
A new Retail Week study has just revealed that 54.6 percent of consumers now say that they’re more likely to buy from a brand that can demonstrate strong ethical and sustainable credentials.
Men are more likely to be swayed by a brand’s eco-credentials than women, while Gen Z consumers are the most likely demographic to be sustainability-conscious, with Baby Boomers the least likely.
What you do need to be careful of when approaching sustainability is the avoidance of greenwashing, as this can be hugely damaging to a brand’s reputation.
Interestingly, a new report from the Changing Markets Foundation has found that some certification schemes and voluntary initiatives, such as WRAP and The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, are actually having the opposite intended effect and are helping to facilitate greenwashing in the industry, as well as cementing its reliance on fossil fuels.
Analysis of some of the biggest certification schemes (including the Ellen McArthur Foundation and The Higg Index by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition) indicated that none of them were fit for purpose and all failed to hold high enough standards, as well as lacking accountability and procrastinating over issues like overproduction, fossil fuel use and the rise of fast fashion.
George Harding-Rolls, campaign manager at the Foundation, observed: “We don’t need any more voluntary schemes. Certification and initiatives such as those in the report act as a placebo, creating a false promise that the industry will address sustainability voluntarily.
“We urgently need comprehensive legislation to change the course of the fashion industry onto a greener path.”
Interestingly, this kind of move has just been made in the US, with legislators in New York recently announcing the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (also known as the Fashion Act).
If passed into law, it would impose sustainable obligations and goals on big-name brands, requiring them to track at least 50 percent of their entire supply chain and be transparent about their prioritised suppliers.
It’s possible that, over time, other states and other countries will soon do similar in a bid to reduce the environmental impact of the global fashion industry… and, as such, now could well be the time for brands to get ahead of the curve and really start prioritising sustainability across their entire operations.
Wondering where to start with it all? Get in touch with Bombyx today to discuss just how apparel PLM software could really help you become more eco-friendly as a business this year.