In 2016, the global textiles, clothing, leather and footwear (TCLF) industry was worth approximately US $1.3 trillion dollars. If it were a country, it would have been the seventh largest economy in the world. The industry employs roughly 300 million people worldwide and contributes to the GDP of many developing countries, particularly those in Asia that rely on garment manufacturing as a source of employment and income.
However, the fashion industry is also one of the most polluting industries in the world. Preliminary research reveals that it is the fourth or fifth largest sector responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions. Every year it uses up so much water, equivalent to that which would support 5 million people. It releases tonnes of microplastics into our oceans and it’s a sector frequently linked to many human rights violations, such as child labour and forced labour.
A new 56-page report entitled ‘Sustainable Fashion Blueprint Report 2018‘ authored by University of Cambridge MBA students Diane Albouy and Olabisi Adesida in partnership with ethical e-commerce marketplace Mamoq, reviews the state of the industry, analysing the sustainability initiatives currently being implemented, and offers a framework that fashion businesses can follow in their efforts to reduce their negative environmental and social impacts. Data collected through a Mamoq consumer research survey, reveals some interesting insights into consumers’ knowledge of sustainable fashion.
“Sustainable fashion broadly refers to the design, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of apparel with respect and consideration for the health and longevity of our natural environment, and the welfare of the animals and humans involved. It aims to limit the socio- environmental cost of fashion, while maximizing its lifetime value and positive impact.” – Madeline Petrow and Lenny Leemann, founders of Mamoq
The report reveals that consumers place sustainability as their fourth most important criteria when purchasing fashion (57%). In order of priority when it comes to shopping apparel: 84% of consumers placed ‘fit’ as their first priority, followed by price and style each at 59%. Comfort and quality at 52% respectively, were low in priority.
The three main barriers preventing consumers from purchasing sustainable fashion according to the report were: lack of knowledge and visibility of sustainable clothing, the high price attached to sustainable fashion and ‘limited’ style. Businesses that address these will have a distinct advantage in the marketplace. “Sustainability is seen by customers as an add-on,” the authors write. “Your company can educate consumers on what sustainability can be and dispel prejudices against sustainable fashion. Open a dialogue with customers to understand their aspirations and commit to meeting their aspirations via sustainable initiatives.”
“Sustainability is gaining traction in the fashion world. Consumers, particularly Millennials and Generation Zs, are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges of sustainability, leading to changes in shopping habits and expectations for better, more sustainable products and new ways of
consuming fashion.” – Sustainable Fashion Blueprint 2018 report
For businesses looking to take their next sustainable steps, focussing on the ethical and sustainable mix of core values is a good place to start; values such as natural materials, artisan craft, third-party certifications such as Fairtrade, vegan, social empowerment and transparency amongst others.
Once this has been clarified, the report recommends focusing energies on ‘onboarding’ those within the company as well as customers. This can be done by joining industry initiatives, partnering with sustainability experts and using social media to initiate important conversations within the fashion community. The report also suggests that businesses should dedicated resources to the long-term implementation of sustainability practices and commit to transparency by making qualitative and quantitive data publicly available, such as energy usage and carbon emissions savings, water usage and emissions savings and volume of waste created and upcycled.
For fashion brands stuck in the vicious fast-fashion cycle but have the heart to transform their businesses, and ethical fashion businesses and entrepreneurs needing guidance in their business models, this report offers a basic blueprint that is worth considering.
To access the full report, click here.