What are the covering topics in sustainability around fashion business? Moreover, what is the role of non-profit organizations in a brand’s commitments? And what are the current goals to achieve?

Sustainability has raised more attention than ever, mainly due to cultural changes in the past few years, a worldwide pandemic, and a new way of thinking regarding new business models. However, facts are not pleasant in an endemic consumerism culture and fast rewarding desires.

The production of apparel and footwear goods is set to increase by 81% by 2030, according to Boston Consulting Group. Bearing in mind that almost 10% of all human kind carbon emissions are linked directly to the fashion industry.

Producing polyester, a fibre in more than 60% of the worldwide produced garments, emits two to three times more carbon than cotton, as stated by a finding of World Resources Institute. 20% of global wastewater comes from the fashion industry, the textile dyeing practice is the second largest polluter of water globally (it takes 2,000 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans), and approximately one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned, every second.

In their article “Trends in the Fashion Industry. The perception of sustainability and circular economy: A gender/generation quantitative approach”, Gazzola and several authors observe that fashion uses more than 98 million tons of non-renewable resources annually (producing, finishing, fertilizing). 93 billion cubic meters of water are added to waste, impacting directly on drought events, therefore 1.2 billion tons of CO2  are generated besides 500 thousand tons of microplastic fibers poured into the oceans.

What is -Really- Sustainable? Or is This Greenwashing?

Kate Fletcher defines sustainable fashion as a strong and nurturing relationship between consumer and producer, to provoke a process of “reconnecting us with nature” and “with each other”. One of the main topics is to create a product that starts a debate and invoke a deeper sense of meaning, making the consumers aware of working conditions, lack of environmental standards, and to explode some exclusivity and power structures around modern fashion.

Lately talking about “sustainablein fashion context, for some experts is an oxymoron mainly because you cannot be truly sustainable if you are not tackling the real issue, the low prices, the overproduction, and the core of bad consumption habits. And that’s accurate equally for fast fashion, independent designers, cosmetics and beauty industries and luxury brands.

Keeping up with the fashion system as it is will result in using up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050, according to the United Nations Environment Program. The predictions remain frightening in a sector that represents a global turnover of 1.3 trillion dollars and employs more than 300 million people worldwide.

What are Brands Doing About Sustainability?

Almost every fashion brand in the planet has issued a press statement committed with green movements. But promises do not always turn into actions, creating an opaque loop of transparency around business strategies.

The Fashion Revolution platform released its 2020 “Fashion Transparency Index” ranking 250 fashion brands and retailers. For example, 40% of brands are publishing their first-tier manufacturers, 24% the processing facilities and 7% are disclosing raw materials suppliers. High street brands are leading the transparency comparing to luxury and designer brands, although they are making progresses.

Gucci, got the highest scoring for a luxury brand in this index with 48% and a year before was the only brand scoring 100% on policy and commitments. Although, H&M got the highest scoring at 73% for the 250 possible points, followed by C&A at 70%, Adidas and Reebok at 69%. Other brands in Kering’s group portfolio including Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga scored around 46-47%.

Disclosure of activities around social and environmental policies, practices and impacts, are some of the indicators plus animal welfare, biodiversity, use of chemicals, gender equality, purchasing practices, forced labour, waste, recycling, working conditions, to name a few. All of those are “hot topics” for brands now.

The initiative (Re)set for the Fashion Pact, has set itself two specific goals. The first is to eliminate unnecessary and harmful plastic in B2C (business to consumer) packaging by 2025 and in B2B (business to business) packaging by 2030. The second, ensure at least 50% of all plastic packaging is 100% recycled content in B2C by 2025 and in B2B by 2030.

The pact, is only 1/3 of the fashion industry players but is a proof of actions to meet the United Nations Sustainable development goals. Furthermore, the pact will drive accelerators in specific branches like circular economy including regenerative raw materials, material efficiency and recycling/upcycling. This includes both “design for circularity” and addressing “the end of life of materials and products”.

Its purpose is to educate and build awareness, dive more impact financing through cross sector collaboration, and to impulse innovation around technology, traceability, measuring and monitoring of impact and outcomes.

Some of the committed fashion brands are: Burberry, Calzedonia, Capri Holdings, Chanel, Chloé, Desigual, Diesel, El Corte Inglés, Ermenegildo Zegna, Farfetch, Armani, Hermès, Inditex, Lacoste, Mango, Matchesfashion.com, Moncler, Nike, Prada, Puma, PVH Corp, Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney, among others.