Should brands care about sustainability? The answer, it seems, is yes. A recent report, from Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (Italian fashion’s governing body), explored the issue with various department store buyers, who confirmed that sustainability has become an essential consideration for stores when deciding what brands to stock. In fact, it was reported that a quarter of the buyers interviewed have delisted at least one brand because of sustainability concerns. However sustainability is not just an issue for fashion buyers; millennial shoppers are regularly acknowledged for their sustainability and environmental concerns. Part of this may be down to millennials buying into a lifestyle and a brand, rather than a particular item, and millennials’ love of championing a cause.
The Italian report comes hot on the heels of the UK Environmental Audit Committee’s final report into sustainability practices within the UK’s retail and fashion industries. The report followed multiple evidentiary hearings, which heard from representatives of “fast fashion” brands, academics, designers, upcyclers, luxury brands and government representatives, and written submissions from brands. What was made clear across all hearings was the staggering effect of the UK’s love of fashion on the environment, with UK consumers buying approximately 38 million items of clothing weekly, and the recognition by the industry that something needs to change.
The report lists numerous recommendations for the UK government to improve sustainability practices, and may be seen as an indication of future legislative changes. The evidentiary hearings discussed the sustainability challenges facing UK brands including: auditing across multiple tiers of suppliers; how to deal with excess stock; the need for greater transparency across the supply chain; the lack of after care services provided by brands; and the unfair working conditions of factory workers. The UK government was not immune from scrutiny by the Committee and was also subjected to a grilling for its lack of progress in reaching environmental targets and its failure to investigate UK factories. The hearings also discussed some practical steps which brands are taking to improve their sustainability practices.
Even more recently, an Kenyan company (Green Nettle Textile) won what some describe as “the Nobel Prize for sustainable fashion” for its project which converts nettles into fibre. Alongside recognition for its efforts, Green Nettle Textile was awarded almost $170,000 for its project. Nike also made the headlines this week for launching its women’s World Cup football kits made from recycled plastic bottles, alongside Kate Hudson who announced the launch of her new eco-friendly and affordable collection “Happy X Nature”.
So for brands to strike gold in 2019, they need to think about striking green.