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Happy Earth Day!

It’s almost Earth Day, which means it’s a great time to talk about sustainability in our industry. Almost any apparel brand you can think of likes to highlight their sustainability efforts or their CSR (corporate social responsibility), but the truth is there aren’t many ways to measure or compare these efforts, and more importantly, the results of these efforts.

I recently attended an online summit on “Closing Fashion’s Sustainability Gap” put on by The Business of Fashion, a global community that combines journalism, online learning and events to connect the fashion industry. Industry experts from around the world discussed the industry’s performance in six categories–waste, workers rights, materials, water and chemicals, emissions and transparency. There are some areas of promise, but in general the message was that the industry could and should be doing much more.

The most exciting takeaways from the summit are related to developments in materials science and recycling technologies. Recycled materials are currently expensive to generate and of lesser quality than new materials but there is R&D in progress on several technologies that will revolutionize how materials are recycled. This will help transform the apparel industry supply chain from a linear process that produces disposable goods to a circular system that creates and then re-creates durable materials. I’ll be writing more about these developments in coming weeks.

The Business of Fashion  has also created their own Sustainability Index that measures the progress in meeting goals for environmentally and socially responsible business practices by fashion’s 15 largest publicly traded companies in the luxury, high street and sportswear sectors. I expected that luxury brands would be better than less expensive brands at producing goods more sustainably, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Even though luxury brands cost more, many of them don’t use more sustainable production methods. On the whole, sportswear and high street brands rank higher than many of the luxury brands tracked by the index.

The Business of Fashion is currently offering a trial 30-day subscription for $1. You can watch a recording of the summit, check out the BoF Sustainability Index, and read their insightful coverage of what’s happening in the fashion industry.


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