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Circularity is a business imperative, say Swarovski innovation speakers

Circularity is at the heart of the sustainable conversation for any brand that is concerned about its longevity in the industry, said speakers at Swarovski Professional’s Sustainable Innovation event in London.

This is about shifting from the current linear method of production and consumption the industry is focused on, where we take, make and dispose of garments, and instead focusing on a circular economy, whereby all products become resources once again, the panel event, which was curated by TheCurrent, highlighted.

Those involved emphasized the importance of this in the context of population growth estimates. There is expected to be 9.8 billion people on earth by 2050, according to the United Nations, which is contrasted by the fact the planet’s resources are becoming increasingly finite.

Haeckel's Dom Bridges in Margate
Haeckel’s Dom Bridges in Margate

Dom Bridges, founder of beauty brand, Haeckels, said it’s therefore essential to think about only putting something out in the world if the planet really needs it. The core ingredients in his skincare line are based on surplus algae and chalk reef from the beaches of Margate in the UK, making circularity a central focus of his strategy.

Numbers on material waste alone should be enough to spur any company into a more sustainable model, he further noted. Only 1% of the world’s textiles are currently recycled back into the system, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, for instance.

That means 99% of what we are all wearing is waste, explained Claire Bergkamp, worldwide director of sustainability and innovation at Stella McCartney, adding that the industry has yet to build a system to successfully recycle product waste.

Stella McCartney has worked with Bolt Threads to launch a mushroom leather handbag
Stella McCartney has worked with Bolt Threads to launch a mushroom leather handbag

In spite of this, she noted that recycling alone is not going to save us. “Single-use” was recently named the word of the year by Collins Dictionary, off the back of rising public concern surrounding the environmental impact of throwaway plastics. Bergkamp accordingly emphasised that across any industry, we have to move away from designing things that are meant to eventually be disposed of.

This is something that is central to the H&M Group’s sustainability goals. It has outlined ambitions to only use sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and to be climate positive throughout the entire value chain by 2040, which ensures its suppliers also take responsibility. “When we set our sustainability goals, we didn’t know how we were going to get there,” said Nina Shariati, the transparency and innovation business expert within the H&M Group’s sustainability department. “But we didn’t set out those goals because we knew we would reach them, we set them because we had to.”

The pressure is on for all brands to become greener in how they manage their environmental footprint, and fairer throughout their supply chains, said Dax Lovegrove, Global Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Swarovski.

Today, a third of the energy used at Swarovski’s Austrian production facility comes from renewable energy, while 70% of the water used in crystal making comes from recycled sources. It is also in the process of assessing the environmental impact of its crystals and raw ingredients, which will be disclosed in early 2019.

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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.