Best Practices Towards Sustainability

Industrial, governmental and international bodies are increasingly working towards making the fashion industry more green (BOF, 2020a). Brands are making efforts to increase sustainable options for consumers (BOF, 2020a). Primary focus of brands should be on helping customers consume fewer resources. Reduced supply, combined with an ambition to reduce discounting, can even have a positive impact on the bottom line (BOF, 2020b).

Fashion players should consider ways to tackle transparency, at point of sale and across other touchpoints (BOF, 2020b). Brands at the forefront should invest in the circular economy, breaking the link between production and revenue, back recycling and embrace sustainable materials and technologies (BOF, 2020a).

Government Initiatives

A recent report by a UK parliamentary committee called out retailers like Amazon UK and Boohoo Group for not doing enough to tackle “unsustainable” and “exploitative” industry practices (Kent, 2019). In June, France, a global leader in luxury fashion, introduced a ban on the destruction of unsold fashion goods (to be implemented by 2023), with manufacturers and retailers obliged to donate, reuse or recycle (BOF, 2020a). The German government in September unveiled the Green Button — the world’s first government sustainable textile label.

International Bodies

In early 2019, ten UN organisations launched the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion (BOF, 2020a). The EU’s Circular Economy action plan, meanwhile, aims to ensure products can be repaired or recycled, with textiles as a key priority (BOF, 2020a). Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s HIGG index, which allows fashion players to assess their own sustainability, should be available to consumers to assess brands (BOF, 2020a). Advocacy groups like Fashion Revolution are pushing for brands to disclose emissions statistics, welfare in supply chains and the ecological impact of how materials are sourced, and publicly identify those that do not (BOF Team, 2020c).

Industrial Initiatives

Zara this year pledged to use 100 percent sustainable fabrics by 2025, joining H&M which earlier committed to using 100 percent recycled or sustainable materials by 2030 (BOF, 2020a). Adidas has committed to phasing out virgin polyester by 2024 (BOF, 2020a). LVMH declared to ensure that 70 percent of the groups leather is sourced in Leather Working Group (LWG) certified tanneries, up from 48 currently (BOF, 2020a). Everlane has committed to “radical transparency” through its supply chain (BOF, 2020a).

Reformation made its first clothes exclusively from deadstock materials, and on its website runs the tagline “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option — we’re #2.” (BOF, 2020a). Multi-brand retailer Asos and Global Fashion Group’s The Iconic earlier this year introduced search filters for recycled fabrics (BOF, 2020). Farfetch’s Conscious Edit targets sustainable products (Kent, 2019; BOF, 2020a). Zalando has expanded its sustainable offering (BOF, 2020a). The company along with Selfridges have committed to stop stocking products that aren’t sustainable (Kent, 2019; Kent, 2020).

Amazon is labelling items on its US website with a winged hourglass to indicate they qualify as more environmentally friendly. Products will need to have achieved at least one of nineteen Certifications like Cradle to Cradle, Fairtrade, the Global Organic Textile Standard and clean chemistry standard Bluesign Product to qualify. (Kent, 2020). Net-a-Porter, Farfetch, and Galeries Lafayette highlight products and brands that meet certain ethical or environmental criteria (Kent, 2019; Kent, 2020).

Galeries Lafayette initiative called Go for Good launched in 2018 features products made in socially or environmentally responsible ways (Kent, 2019). Asos launched a programme in January 2018 to work with its more than 1,000 third-party brands to ensure they meet the retailer’s minimum requirements for ethical trade and sustainability (Kent, 2019). Harvey Nichols blacklists brands it finds are non-compliant with its standards for working conditions and governance (Kent, 2019).

The RealReal is educating consumers through dedicated email reports which outline the exact environmental impact of each customer’s unique expenditure and consignment patterns, across greenhouse emissions, water usage and other metrics (BOF Team, 2020c). Rag & Bone has partnered with Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling programme, offering consumers a 20 percent discount if they hand in an old pair of jeans from any brand (BOF Team, 2020c).