Sustainability in the fashion industry


Written by Natalia Rodrigo, Group Sustainability Technical Manager.


 

Recent studies on the fashion industry state that this sector highly needs to improve sustainability performance. Although it is true that most fashion brands are aware of their environmental and social impact, only less than half of them have started to take real action. In addition to this, fashion companies are not yet implementing sustainable solutions fast enough to effectively counteract all the negative impacts this hastily growing industry has.

Current patterns of production and consumption in the fashion industry endanger natural resources and generate a loss of biodiversity. Furthermore, it cannot be discarded increasing rates of carbon emissions, water consumption, chemical use, and waste generation. Considering that, our planet has already overcome its safe operating boundaries, restrictions on one or more of its key input factors cannot be discarded, making it difficult to grow at the projected rate of a predicted increase of 60% by 2030. 

In addition to this, other non-environmental challenging issues such as animal welfare, lack of transparency and negative image, for instance, pressuring society to live up to body ideals, cannot be consigned to oblivion.

It is a universally acknowledged truth that the fashion industry is regarded as a powerhouse for global development. This point can be illustrated by the position it has as one of the world’s largest consumer industries. As a result, this sector imperatively needs to perform differently. Far away from integrating profit and growth, fashion can provide additional value towards its products, resulting in tangible benefits across society as well as the world economy. 

Fashion, talent, and creativity always go hand in hand. This means that fashion has a far-reaching savoir-faire, is active on social media and counts with enough leverage to successfully work on its own transformation. 

Positively surprisingly, the fashion industry has already embarked on the challenging target of raising consumers ´awareness, undertaking for real and effective improvements, conforming wide networks dedicated to environmental, social, and transparent goals.

In addition to all of this, targeted investments made on technology as well as labor conditions and productivity, achievable heretofore will allow fashion brands to counterbalance current pressure. This point can be illustrated by current initiatives on converting textile waste into raw materials using advanced recycling techniques; reduce water and energy consumption due to innovative technology implementation as well as to integrate waste management techniques across production and distribution operations.

Taking all these new specialized strategies into account, a sneaking suspicion that acting differently nowadays as well as eagle eyeing for innovative solutions will provide these companies with a unique opportunity to manage and make certainly profitable growth forge ahead.

On the other hand, if no prompt action is taken, fashion brands will strain themselves to downgrade average unitary prices, deeper depreciation levels, rising costs, as well as resource shortage among the value chain. Undoubtedly, this industry is nowadays based on a linear ‘one-way street’ of take, make, and waste.

As a result, chain reactions across fashion are quite predictable. Considering current projections for growth in energy prices and salaries by 2030, fashion brands will suffer a decline in benefits if they still opt for business, as usual, consequently pledging their long-term resourcefulness.

In order to effectively address the rising environmental and social pressure, as well as to strike with the continuous industry boost, this sector is called to assess its footprint. In order to determine the industry’s environmental, social, and ethical gaps, ALLCOT helps the fashion industry to successfully identify the level of sustainability at each stage of the value chain. This strategy empowers companies to identify KPI´s and raise red flags for the weakest of them.  The main objective of this effort is to build-up knowledge, transparency, and overall sustainability. 

Without any doubt, this challenge in patterns ‘turnover also aims to establish the basis for prospective remodeling, investment channeling and innovation.

In conclusion, if the fashion industry does not take prompt and fast action on sustainability performance, its contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be significant, putting into high risk the commitments of the Paris Agreement and therefore the Agenda 2030.  As a result, it is urgently needed to place environmental, social, and ethical improvements as an indispensable task within management’s agendas.

The fashion industry has the iron in the fire to empower large-scale environmental and social change.  Integrating more energy-efficient and conscientious use of limited resources, fair working conditions, as well as progressing on upstream and downstream issues along the value chain are key strategies to make this change a reality.

ALLCOT is changing the change…

Monica de Oliveira