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Fashion, textiles sector keen to go green despite pandemic

Oct '20
Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock
New research reveals the extent of the global fashion industry's commitment to sustainability, despite the pandemic, with sustainability ranked as the second most important strategic objective for businesses in the sector. It comes at a time when the industry finds itself at a crossroads: whether to continue to invest in sustainability or row back.

Research by the US Cotton Trust Protocol and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) shows 60 per cent of fashion, retail and textile leaders surveyed named implementing sustainability measures as the second top strategic objective for their business, the top being improving customers’ experience (ranked first by 64 per cent). Only 15 per cent named rewarding stakeholders as a priority.

The survey, titled ‘Is Sustainability in Fashion?’, covered 150 leading executives from top fashion, retail and textile business across Europe and the United States, and interviews with leading brands like Puma, H&M and Adidas.

In defiance of the pandemic, the new data shows that for many of the world's biggest brands, sustainability is now business critical, according to a press release from EIU and the US Cotton Trust Protocol.

Leaders report they are introducing sustainability measures throughout the supply chain, from sourcing sustainably produced raw materials (65 per cent), introducing a circular economy approach to their business and cutting greenhouse gasses (51 per cent apiece) and investing in new technologies like 3D printing and blockchain (41 per cent).

Overall, the majority (70 per cent) are optimistic that sustainable, fast and affordable fashion is achievable.

A key finding of the research is that data matters for sustainability. When asked what measures they were implementing today to be more sustainable, collecting data from across the business and in the supply chain to measure performance was listed at the very top of business leaders’ list of priorities by 53 per cent, second only to developing and implementing an environmental sustainability strategy with measurable targets, favoured by almost six in ten (58 per cent).

However, although brands clearly recognise the importance of data, the research’s findings on data collection indicates that top fashion brands, retailers and textile businesses may find sourcing good quality data a challenge.

While business leaders report relatively high rates of data collection on supplier sustainability practices (65 per cent) and worker rights and workplace health and safety in the supply chain (62 per cent), a significant proportion (45 per cent) of businesses do not track greenhouse gas emissions across production, manufacturing and distribution of the products they sell, while 41 per cent don’t track the amount of water and energy being used to produce the raw materials they source.

Looking to the future, over a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents saw a lack of available, easily-accessible data as hampering collaboration on sustainability across the industry. As some respondents in interview pointed out, while collecting data could be hard it is important.

The US Cotton Trust Protocol is a new initiative that sets a new standard in sustainably grown cotton. By working closely with growers, it provides clear, consistent data on six key sustainability metrics, including greenhouse gas emissions, water use, soil carbon, soil loss, independently audited through Control Union Certification.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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