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What sustainability goals should the fashion industry aspire to?

April 20, 2017
Posted by adjuno


Adjuno recently attended the The ASBCI Sustainability Conference on “Doing the right thing” in the fashion industry. A topic that is gaining emphasis on board agendas all over the world and something close to Adjuno, as we develop solutions to help retailers and brands run more sustainable and ethical supply chains.

Fashion organisations in particular face scrutiny over whether they are “doing the right thing” in relation to product traceability and the impact that the organisation has on the environment in which it operates.

Inspiring keynote speaker, Mike Barry, Director of Marks and Spencer’s sustainability “Plan A” project, gave an in-depth overview of the project progress 10 years on from its inauguration. The project is a huge undertaking and in 10 years, they have achieved 20% of their goals.

It’s clear steps are being taken in the industry, but more could be done to use more sustainable cotton, timber and fish. These steps can be aided through adopting new technology such as Block Chain and IoT, as well as creating business partnerships so Chief Executives across the industry work more closely together. Staff also need better training in order to learn radical revolutionary ways to protect the future environment by adopting more sustainable business practices.

Further speakers covered a plethora of sustainability topics including:

  1. ‘Are You Doing the Right Thing?’ – Rakesh Vazirani, Director – Product Traceability & Environmental Information Management (TUV Rheinland UK).
  2. ‘Striving for sustainability in the clothing industry – an Overview of working with WRAP’ – Prof. Tim Cooper, Professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption (Nottingham Trent University).
  3. ‘Fashioning Fibres for the Future’ – Robin Anson, Editorial Director (Textiles Intelligence)
  4. ‘Cottoning On’ – Graham Burden, Director, (Sustainable Textile Solutions).
  5. ‘Water Use in the Textile Supply Chain’ – Elaine Gardiner, Sustainability Manager, (Berghaus).
  6. ‘Sustainability Together’ Guido Rimini, Head of Marketing, Apparel Europe, (Freudenberg Performance Materials Apparel SE & Co. KG).
  7. ‘Closing the Loop’ – Ross Barry, (Lawrence M Barry & Co).
  8. ‘Supply Chain Transparency What have you got to lose?’- Tara Luckman, Fabric & Sustainability Manager, (ASOS.COM)

During the conference, we also heard some astonishing facts such as:

  • 80 billion garments are produced globally every year
  • The fashion industry is the most polluting in the world
  • 5 trillion litres of water are used every year in the dye industry
  • Huge amounts of discarded/unwanted clothing is put into landfill every year
  • The fashion industry is a large generator of micro plastics and user of hazardous chemicals
  • Wearing your clothes for just 9 more months would reduce waste by 20-30%
  • More advanced processes are needed for the longevity of clothing
  • Natural fibres such as cotton need to be more sustainable to do less damage to environment, economy and social well-being of local communities.
  • Manmade cellulosic materials are made from natural recycled fibres use much less water and do not pollute the environment.
  • 20% of global water pollution is from the fashion/textile industry
  • Crops are grown in these same polluted waters in some of the poorest countries
  • The planet cannot sustain the growing demands of the fashion industry

Consequently, organisations in the fashion industry need to set goals about using more sustainable sources of cotton to produce garments, such as:

  • Organic
  • Fairtrade
  • Cotton made in Africa
  • BCI Cotton

Some of the first steps organisations in the fashion industry must take is to gain transparency of where their raw materials are sourced, and the processes in which their suppliers and factories use in order to harvest them.

Goals should be set around achieving visibility of who those factories are and ensuring they are operating sustainability and ethically which can only be achieved through regular auditing and long-term partnerships. As well as looking at new technology and innovative ways to produce garments in a more sustainable way. The fashion industry needs to support their suppliers to change for the good with practical actions and “do the right thing” for the environment and local communities. Long-term secure rates for sustainable suppliers should be what every fashion retailer works towards to really make a difference.

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