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Failure to adopt sustainability putting retailers at risk

May '19
Fashion brands and retailers are at risk of more than just reputational damage on failing to integrate sustainable practices. A recent conference by the Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) talked about the alignment of sustainability with efficiency for successful businesses by also integrating responsible practices.

Expert speakers from across the fashion industry and academia gathered together to acknowledge the scale of the challenges facing the sector and highlight practical initiatives, innovative thinking, and business realignments that could help create a sustainable future for fashion.

Speakers made it clear that sustainability is no longer just an optional extra. Not only is there a clear business case for sustainable business models, but legislation is increasingly transforming industry response from the voluntary to the mandatory. Daphne Guelker from UL explained that a new bill has been submitted that will demand an explanation for inaction, name and shame non-compliant organisations, and ban them from public procurement. ‘The legislators are telling us more needs to be done.’

Daphne went on to set out concrete steps that will enable businesses to start taking control of this complex and pervasive problem, while Carly Bilsbrough from Shop Direct talked about the retailer’s labour initiative in south India to combat labour violations and improve working conditions in mills, and in doing so create a safe and sustainable future for the industry in the region.

Phil Townsend from M&S explained how the Better Cotton Initiative is transforming the sustainability of this global commodity, while Peter Hughes from Eurofins / BLC Leather Technology Centre highlighted the complex and often conflicting nature of emotive sustainability issues with an examination of the pros and cons of leather versus its vegan alternatives, illustrating how all materials have potential issues.

"This was a fascinating conference on a very important topic for the industry," said ASBCI chairman Dr Alistair Knox. "The incredible attendance proves just how seriously the industry is taking it. The speakers were excellent, and we have already had requests to hold a follow-up conference next year as well as more focused technical seminars delving deeper into specific aspects of sustainability, so we are looking into various possibilities to keep the momentum going."

The conference was hosted by Dr Julie King, deputy dean at the University of South Wales and ASBCI event director, and was sponsored by UL, GreenEarth Cleaning, and Coats. (RR)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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