Categories
business Campaigns Editor's pick sustainability

From G7 to fashion weeks – why the industry needs to cut the sustainable chat and take action

One minute we’re talking all about saving the planet, the next, it’s onto the indulgence and excess of fashion weeks. No wonder there’s so much questioning around what the industry is about right now. 

At the G7 Summit last month, François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of luxury group Kering, introduced the Fashion Pact, a deal that saw 32 brands from Adidas to Prada, coming together to commit to stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. 

The initiative was mandated by French President Emmanuel Macron, who asked the industry to set practical objectives for reducing its environmental impact.

Practical is the keyword here. While collaboration between so many different players is in itself great progress, reflections on many of the goals are that they have been light on detail as to how they’re going to be achieved. 

Meanwhile, as has been pointed out by others this past fortnight, fashion week season has kicked off and we’re back into that completely contrasting feeling of celebration and excess once more. “Fashion month is a party,” Orsola de Castro, co-founder and creative director of non-profit Fashion Revolution, told the Business of Fashion. “It’s huge fun, but it’s the kind of fun that is no longer funny.” 

Within that is of course the volume of waste and climate impact generated from the shows themselves, but in addition, the culture of consumerism they continue to feed.  

In London we have Extinction Rebellion protesting against the very existence of fashion week itself, while in New York, the biggest stories have conversely been about the large-scale theatrics of shows from the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty. Let’s not forget, fashion weeks are about marketing – appealing to buyers, press and consumers individually to encourage them to buy and buy-into the new collections in one or other of their relative ways. 

By their very nature, they therefore clash with a more sustainable approach to supply and demand. All of which makes one question how much hot air really surrounds the topic of sustainability – no matter how much it’s “trending” – when looking across the industry at large. 

Back to the G7 pact and the biggest question that sits there then, is how will any of these promises turn into reality? As in, literally what are the methodologies behind them? 

The fact is, what we really need is less talk more doing. To put it into the simplest terms, the contradiction of fashion week doesn’t sit well with the notion of ‘actions speaking louder than words’. But neither do promises that aren’t backed by some tangible outputs to follow. 

The same goes for the sheer volume of broader sustainable pledges being made by the industry. Everywhere you turn you see promises to use 100% renewable energy by 2020, to become carbon neutral by 2022, to reduce water consumption by 2025. The same can be said for chemicals, materials, recycling, waste… the list goes on. 

That’s all well and good, but only if progress towards those things actually happen. On our side, we’re tracking them all, and the list of promises is growing at a substantially faster rate than that of the actions being made in response. This is absolutely key. It means that currently the announcements are serving in the main as PR initiatives – a way of hiding behind something that is several years away, or about buying time while you figure out what to actually do. 

The result is that we either have too many pledges that risk not being met, or those offering too little too late – such as to be carbon neutral by 2050. In Greta Thunberg’s words, this is a climate emergency

Last year, Fast Company reviewed various environmental goals set for 2020 by large corporations as well as countries, questioning which of them were on target to actually be met in time. It reads like a mixed bag, though does demonstrate progress in parts. 

The same can be said for fashion. Kering itself has always been one of the most vocal about its goals, setting them out in 2012, then reporting back on what it had and hadn’t achieved in 2016. It reset its targets in 2017 with a broader 2025 sustainability strategy in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Included in that was cutting the group’s carbon emissions by 50% and reducing its overall environmental impact by at least 40%. Not small aims. An update is expected in 2020. 

H&M is another that’s always gone big. It’s reportedly on target to hit its goals of both using 100% organic or recycled cotton, and eliminating hazardous chemicals in its production, by 2020. Future aims include becoming climate positive by 2040. 

The difficulty with all this is the sliding scale of what attaining such goals mean, not to mention how they’re measured. 

One of the ones I have the biggest issue with in the industry broadly is the idea of moving to entirely “sustainable cotton” by 2025. This isn’t so much in the goal itself by any means, but in the naming of it. What is sustainable cotton? Strictly speaking, most of the time what we’re talking about is rather “better” cotton. As in, it is literally better for the environment than that which is otherwise farmed in the conventional manner. Usually this falls under those certified via the Better Cotton Initiative and others including Organic and Fair Trade. 

This sort of language use is critical because of how misleading it can be to the consumer. It instantly gives the impression that fast fashion, like Zara as well, for instance, will be absolutely fine by 2025 because the materials used will indeed be entirely sustainable. Not true. They’ll just be less bad at that early part of the supply chain. Arguably, that’s not enough. 

The same goes for what is the lesser of two evils when we hear certain companies have managed to achieve zero waste to landfill targets, yet are continuing to incinerate items. Does the ban on incineration in France mean landfill will then be on the up? 

When it comes to greenhouse gases, there was a feeling in a recent meeting I had with some members of UK parliament, that regulation for companies to declare their emissions makes the industry immediately more accountable.

What didn’t seem to be acknowledged is that the fashion industry doesn’t know the true numbers around its emissions. As I’ve written about before, it’s not completely possible right now because there is simply not enough accurate information out there for it to report this – and it doesn’t have direct control of its supply chain in the majority of cases to discover any of it itself further. 

We know this from our work with Google to build a tool that shines a light on the raw materials stage of the supply chain – Tier 4. What’s available right now is at best globalized averages, at worst, completely unknown. The result, therefore, is guesswork. How for instance can H&M become climate positive in a true sense, if it can’t trace back the impact it is actually having? It can’t. You can apply the same to Burberry, to Nike, to whoever else you like.

A few years back there were headlines about 2020 being the “magic year for fashion” based on the industry embracing sustainability. Arguably, even in the midst of fashion week season, that has already happened. But it doesn’t mean anything if it’s just being talked about.  

Change can only take place if these goals become tangible. That’s our entire mantra as a business – drive transformation by enabling action. Enough with the pledges therefore, what we’d rather see is the industry diving deep, staying quiet, building new solutions and starting to show us some results. 

How are you thinking about sustainability? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media sustainability technology

Robot photographers, questioning the new UK PM, is fashion-tech going to burst?

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • Are robot photographers the future of e-commerce? (BoF)
  • Industry questions new UK PM’s priorities (Drapers)
  • Is the fashion-tech bubble going to burst? (Vogue Business)
  • Don’t scoff at influencers. They’re taking over the world (NY Times)
  • The $400 billion adaptive clothing opportunity (Vogue Business)
TECHNOLOGY
  • This AI is helping scientists develop invisibility cloaks (Futurism)
  • Elon Musk’s robot surgeon will sew electrodes into human brains, starting in 2020 (Mashable)
  • The technology that makes the fashion Rental business tick (WWD)
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • How fashion is helping suppliers fight climate change (Vogue Business)
  • Bally reveals Mount Everest clean-up initiative (WWD)
  • H&M, Microsoft, PVH Corp collaborate in circular fashion initiative (Vogue Business)
  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation wants to redesign the denim industry (Vogue)
  • Lush debuts ‘carbon-positive’ packaging (Edie)
  • As Zara announces its latest sustainability goals, three of its design team weigh in on going slower and creating responsibly (Vogue)
  • YKK leads the way in sustainability with Natulon® range (Fashion United)
  • This site will show you exactly how ashamed you should be of flying (Fast Company)
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Amazon’s revolutionary retail strategy? Recycling old ideas (Wired)
  • The toys are back in town: A reimagined Toys R Us returns (Forbes)
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • How Tik Tok is changing beauty standards for Gen Z (I-d Vice)
  • Fashion doesn’t know what to do with YouTube. Derek Blasberg is trying to help (Vogue Business)
  • Why brands are sliding into your DMs (BoF)
  • How will fashion find validation without instagram likes? (BoF)
  • Hermès reveals behind-the-scenes to its craftsmanship via WeChat (Jing Daily)
  • Gucci gamifies house codes in retro-style mobile arcade (Luxury Daily)
PRODUCT
  • This jewelry is a brilliant shield against face-recognition intrusions (Fast Company)
  • L’Oréal is launching a new skin-care brand with paper packaging (Allure)
  • Napapijri to launch 100% recyclable jacket (Fashion United)
  • Alice + Olivia to expand beauty and wellness with CBD partnership (Fashion United)
BUSINESS
  • Gucci growth slows but Kering still posts near 19% sales growth (The Industry)
  • Asos issues third profit warning in seven months as shares fall (The Guardian)
  • Charity shops, antiques behind surprise UK retail sales jump in June (Reuters)
CULTURE
  • Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial protesters are crowdfunding everything from doctors to legal fees (Quartz)
  • Forever 21 accused of body-shaming after giving out free diet bars with orders (Hype Beast)
  • Mr Porter commits to mental, physical health (WWD)

How are you thinking about innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

Categories
Campaigns Editor's pick sustainability

Reformation helps customers offset their carbon footprint with new sustainable initiatives

Reformation is helping fight climate change with a campaign that enables its customers to offset their individual carbon footprints by supporting clean energy projects. The California-based sustainable label is launching “Carbon is Canceled”, which features a series of programs over the next few months that hope to encourage sustainable behavior.

Firstly, it is partnering with sustainable energy providers Arcadia Power to encourage customers to switch 50% of their electric energy bill to wind energy for no additional cost – and as a reward, receive a $100 gift certificate from the label.

Secondly, it is introducing “Climate Credits” with carbon offsite partners Native Energy. The tool enables customers on the Reformation website to purchase “credits” and have that monetary value be put towards verified carbon offset projects, such as clean energy and forestry projects that actively reduce CO2 emissions.

For example, for the price of $60, a customer can offset their own individual carbon emissions for the span of six months, and have that money be donated to suitable projects. Alternatively, customers can buy credits towards an entire family’s consumption and even towards a wedding’s.

Reformation has been entirely carbon-neutral since 2015, and this program is only one of the many initiatives that hope to encourage its cult following to think and shop more sustainably.

In 2015, it introduced Refscale, an eco tool that allows customers to see exactly how sustainable each individual Reformation garment is compared to industry standards. For Earth Day in 2018, it pledged to keep 75,000 pieces of clothing out of landfills that year by announcing a series of initiatives that support the resale of ‘gently loved’ Reformation items, teaming up with platforms such as ThredUp and Depop.

Are you thinking innovatively enough about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

Categories
business Retail sustainability

H&M enlists Lyft for convenient fashion recycling

H&M has partnered with ride-hailing service Lyft to make it more convenient for New Yorkers to donate unwanted clothing through its Garment Collecting program. From January 22-27, the first 5,000 customers to order a Lyft using a special discount code, HMRECYCLES, will be able to grab a free ride to their nearest H&M store.

“H&M is thrilled to partner with Lyft in a joint effort to give garments a second life through H&M’s Garment Collecting program,” said Martino Pessina, president of H&M North America. “Sustainability is a part of everything we do, and we are excited this initiative will allow more New Yorkers to both learn about and get involved in the program.”

The partnership will enable both brands further drive their respective sustainability goals.

In 2018, Lyft committed to full carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy by offsetting the carbon emission from all its rides – meaning every ride in NYC is now carbon-neutral. The service has also partnered with cities and public transit agencies across the US to launch bike and scooter schemes.

H&M, on the other hand, has been developing tools and services that aim to help the fashion industry – and its consumers – be more accountable for their actions. The Garment Collection program, which launched in 2013, has so far collected over 163m pounds of textiles globally. In order to incentivize consumers to come into their stores and donate clothing, it offers a 15% discount for future purchases.

Last year, TheCurrent Daily spoke to Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group, on the Innovators podcast about the company’s ambitious goals to become 100% circular by 2030.

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainability strategy. TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.