Three Opportunities for Sustainable Change in the Fashion Industry
The fashion industry is facing an increasingly dire crisis. According to the World Economic Forum, 85% of the world’s textiles end up in landfill. The fast fashion industry is facing ever-increasing consumption and growth, with people buying 60% more clothes in 2014 than in 2000, but only keeping them for half as long as they did before.
Because of the huge challenges faced by the fashion industry, change clearly needs to happen. So where can that change start? Let’s look at three key areas that could help the fashion industry reduce their waste and their impact on our planet.
Over the last year, innovation from the pandemic has led to increased online shopping, giving fashion retailers a lot more data about what shoppers are doing. Fashion businesses have more data and more knowledge about buying habits and their own supply chains than before. Before now, digitisation has been slow in the fashion industry. It’s often seen as the death of creativity, as something that would stifle free-thinking creation for new fashion ideas.
Now, it’s become increasingly clear that digitisation is crucial if fashion is going to change with the times. There needs to be more regulation of waste if leading manufacturers are ever going to cut down on the enormous amounts of textiles and products that end up in landfill. Perhaps the forced digital revolution of the pandemic can be the start of a new use of digitisation in the world of fashion.
Collaboration and Partnerships
Fashion supply chains are often made up of so many different parts. Because items pass through so many hands, from the designer to the manufacturer to the warehouse to the retailer, waste at every stage tends to grow. For example, a report from Arch and Hook recently showed that 80% of hangers are made up of plastic and most of them are only used two or three times before being discarded. That’s an enormous amount of plastic waste within the supply chain of even just one retailer.
Tacking waste needs to happen at every step of the supply chain. Currently, hangers and garment bags get replaced by every new supplier or manufacturer; there needs to be better communication between different stakeholders. If they can share insights from reports like the one above, even create products together, they can work collaboratively to solve these widespread industry issues.
Another impact of lockdown was a widespread consumer shift to localisation. Of course, some people simply started to shop less during the pandemic, but PayPal found that 46% of those who continued shopping were browsing more locally than before. 88% of these people thought that these localised shopping habits would continue even after the pandemic.
Reducing the length of the supply chain helps enormously with waste. Less time in transit means less packaging and less carbon emissions from transport. Nonetheless, consumer demand hasn’t gone far enough. People are still buying from fast fashion outlets at an unsustainable rate. Fashion items rarely stay in someone’s home longer than a year in Europe, often ending up in landfill; that needs to change urgently.
These three areas show great opportunities for the fashion industry to change for the better. As one of the most influential industries in the world when it comes to waste and climate change, any changes that can be made here will have a real impact. We’re excited to welcome both individuals and companies doing incredible things in the world of fashion to the Zero Waste Festival Berlin in June and continuing the discussion there.
Hear more about the challenges and potential opportunities of the fashion industry in our recent Instagram live with Kerry Bannigan of the Conscious Fashion Campaign:
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