In 2015 the fashion industry consumed 79 billion cubic meters of water, emitted 1,715 million tons of CO2, and produced 92 million tons of waste. by 2030 the global population is expected to reach 8.5 billion people. In order for sustainability to become part of business operations, the practice must improve a company’s efficiencies and provide some sort of monetary incentive.
In a report created through the collaboration of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), we find this necessary assessment of the industry. In 2016 the apparel and footwear market generated over 1.8 billion dollars in revenue and employed over 60 million people. The overuse of resources like water and energy will result in rising prices as the goods become more scarce. This coupled with rising labor costs could result in an earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) margin decline of 3 percent if brands do not adapt and change their practices. Overall, bad for the planet and bad for business.
Pulse Score. is developed from data and information from two main resources. The first is the Higg Index, a “self-assessment tool” developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition that large brands use to measure the environmental and social impacts of their supply chains. BCG and GFA took this data and combined it with a survey of industry executives—the Pulse Survey—and interviews with experts to validate their conclusions and processes.
Research found that sustainability performance was generally linked to company size rather than price positioning. In general, the largest brands along with some niche sustainability-focused smaller players are doing very well in terms of their impact. Speaking in geographic terms, the report found that European brands scored higher on environmental dimensions. Conversely, US brands achieved higher scores in dimensions related to social and labor practices.
The report looked at eight major areas of impact across both environmental and societal issues. The environmental impact areas included water, energy, waste, and chemicals. The societal impact areas were labor practices, health and safety, community engagement, and unethical practices.
One particularly interesting finding is that fashion brands were much more likely to score higher in areas like health and safety and chemical usage. The higher scores in chemical impact are due to regulation.
When looking at the design and development phase, fashion brands must overcome two challenges. The first is that many of these fashion brands lack awareness of the social and environmental impact of their products. The second is brands tend to use the design phase as an opportunity to cut costs.
The next step of the process is the raw materials stage. This stage is one of the most important stages of the process because of the dramatic effect it has on the potential recyclability of products. Some of the worst and most commonly used materials in the fashion industry are leather and natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk. While the raw materials stage has the second lowest score along the value chain, a terrible 17, there is a serious gap between the top and bottom performers.
Following the raw materials stage is the processing stage, which includes all actions taken to prepare the fabrics for use, such as dyeing, weaving, and spinning. Overall, this stage scored the second highest Pulse Score for the industry with a 38. However, there was a tremendous amount of variation between brands with scores ranging from 80 to 0.
After processing we move on to the manufacturing stage where labor, health, and safety are the primary concerns. sports apparel with a very impressive Pulse Score of 76.
From manufacturing we move to the transportation stage of the process, which includes both packaging and distribution. Transportation achieves the highest Pulse Score of 41.
The retail stage comes after transportation and has a Pulse Score of 28.
As we move past the retail stage, we get into the final two stages—consumer use and end of use. The consumer use stage includes how a consumer handles, repairs, and washes their garments and footwear. The industry scores low on consumer use with a 23, The final stage of the process is end of use, where the life cycle of a product comes to an end. When a consumer has finished with a product, it can be passed on to a new consumer, upcycled, downcycled, full recycled or disposed of as waste. end of use stage receiving the lowest score across all the stages with just a 9 for the industry.
Just for a quick recap, the stages of a product life cycle were as follows: design and development, raw materials, processing, manufacturing, transportation, retail, consumer use, and end of use.
Some of the key trends discussed in the study are the growth of the circular economy, increased demand for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices, increased consumer awareness, the birth of the sharing economy, and technological innovation.
The idea of a circular economy is about focusing on how we can take products and materials already in existence and use them to create products of greater value. This trend separates economic growth and the use of finite resources. A circular economy consists of both upcycling and recycling.
Upcycling is taking resources that would normally be discarded and using them to create something of greater value.
Recycling, as you probably know, is converting materials from old products into new ones.
Another driver in the sustainable fashion movement is the increased prevalence of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) statements by brands. joining the World Fair Trade Organization. Locally sourced products try to minimize the distance between where a product is produced and where it is consumed.
strongest drivers of the sustainable fashion push, is increased consumer awareness. Research shows that younger generations value experiences (like a trip to a foreign country or seeing their favorite band live) more than previous generations. This increasing value placed on experience results in younger consumers spending less on material things—like clothing.
The sharing economy is centered on the idea of collaborative consumption. This new way of consuming products is best described as “the expansion and reinvention of exchanging, swapping, bartering, sharing, loaning, and donating practices, usually between people not previously connected.” The growth of the sharing economy can be seen in the growth of the apparel rental industry as companies like Rent the Runway continue to see great success.
A final driver in the sustainable fashion movement is technological innovation.
When we look at consumption in 2014 as compared to 2000, we see that the average consumer purchased 60 percent more clothing but kept each garment for half as long. It takes 700 gallons of water to make one cotton t-shirt. This is enough water for one person to drink for 2.5 years. In looking at CO2 emissions from the 2018 Climate Report, you can see that fashion is the fourth worst polluting industry when using this particular metric.
Celebrities today yield more power to influence people than ever before. The fast fashion model is a system where retailers rush to recreate the latest trends seen on the runways at the cheapest possible cost so they can mass produce them and sell them to eager consumers looking to keep up with the newest trends for the season.
The term slow fashion movement was first coined by Kate Fletcher, a professor at the Sustainable Fashion Centre. This is a movement of consumers, designers, retailers, and manufacturers who are all making the commitment to a more sustainable fashion industry. Rather than spending money on cheap clothes each season, instead spend that money on clothing that can last for years.
The slow fashion movement is not meant to just be the opposite of fast fashion. This movement is about the industry making more conscientious decisions along all dimensions of the supply chain. researchers from the Master’s Programme in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability in Sweden have identified “sustainable values” that can be used to guide supply chain decisions.
The first value is seeing the bigger picture. Another value is slowing down consumption. Additionally, the researchers listed respect for people as a must-have value for the slow fashion movement. One trend that is disrupting the fashion industry is the rapid growth of apparel rental. The apparel rental model allows consumers to rent specific pieces for a set fee or pay a monthly subscription for access to a selection of garments each month. millennial consumers on average place a greater value on experience as opposed to material possessions.