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Google's new tool to check fashion's environmental impact

22
May '19
Pic: Google
Pic: Google
Google will be building a tool that uses data analytics and machine learning on Google Cloud to give brands a more comprehensive view into their supply chain at raw material level. Companies will be able to better measure impact of raw materials relevant to environmental factors such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water scarcity.

Initially Google will be looking at cotton and viscose, each chosen due to the scale of their production, data availability and impact considerations. More specifically, cotton accounts for 25 per cent of all fibres used by the fashion industry, with a notable impact on water and pesticide use. Viscose production is smaller but growing in demand, and has links to the destruction of forests—some endangered—which are critical in mitigating carbon emissions. The pilot will enable Google to test the effectiveness of the tool on these different raw materials, building out the possibilities for expansion into a wider variety of key textiles in the market down the line.

“This is the first phase of our experiment. We are actively working with fashion brands, experts, NGOs and industry bodies with the ambition of creating an open industry-wide tool, and plan to continue driving collaboration with other key players—large and small. We hope that our experiment will give fashion brands greater visibility of impact within their supply chain and actionable insights to make better raw material sourcing decisions with sustainability in mind,” said Nick Martin, head of retail, Google Cloud in a company blog.

The fashion industry is heeding the call to sustainability. Its environmental impact is significant and growing—among other statistics, the fashion industry accounts for 20 per cent of wastewater and 10 per cent of carbon emissions globally.

Much of this impact occurs at the raw materials stage in the production process, where brands have little to no visibility. This is an industry wide problem, where supply chains are highly fragmented and with little transparency. Many organisations and brands have been trailblazers in an effort to collect and surface data that can lead to better sourcing decisions, but gaps in the data continue to persist due to its complexity and global nature.

After working with Current Global, an innovation consultancy that empowers fashion brands to reach their sustainability goals through the use of relevant technologies, Google determined that it could help be part of the solution through the use of cloud-based tools for data collection and analysis. At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, one of the fashion industry’s key sustainability events of the year, Google announced an experiment to do exactly that.

To bring its experiment to life, Google will be collaborating closely with Stella McCartney. The brand has been a pioneer in leading the fashion industry towards sustainability, helping to launch the UN Fashion Industry Charter for climate change and recently introducing Stella McCartney Cares Green, one of the arms of the Stella McCartney Foundation, to further promote sustainability and environmental protection. By working together through this pilot project, Google hopes to translate data into meaningful insights so the industry can take action.

“At Stella McCartney we have been continuously focusing on looking at responsible and sustainable ways to conduct ourselves in fashion, it is at the heart of what we do.  We are trying our best –we aren’t perfect, but we are opening a conversation that hasn’t really been had in the history of fashion,” said Stella McCartney, owner of the brand. (PC)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India


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