Fashion companies slower to embrace sustainability than in 2018

The winds of change are blowing the fashion industry towards a more sustainable future, but at a slower pace than last year, a study reveals. While the industry at large has improved its social and environmental performance, findings from the Global Fashion Agenda, Boston Consulting Group, and Sustainable Apparel Coalition demonstrate that fashion companies are not implementing sustainable solutions fast enough to counterbalance negative environmental and social impacts of the rapidly growing fashion industry.

The study, which measures the pulse of the fashion industry and allocated a score, concludes if the industry does not implement changes at a faster rate, it will not be able to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or meet the Paris Agreement.

The Pulse Score is a global and holistic baseline of the sustainability management, target setting and implementation of sustainability initiatives of the fashion sector. It is based on the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s (SAC) proprietary Higg Index and extends its scope to extrapolate its findings to the entire industry. The Higg Index is the most extensive and representative existing transparency measurement tool of the industry.

Although continued progress is encouraging, its decreasing speed is concerning, states the report. In the last two years alone the apparel and footwear industry grew between 4 to 5 percent, in line with projections through 2023 that show annual growth of approximately 5 percent. This is largely driven by increasing demand in Asia-Pacific and developing countries.

By 2030 the global apparel and footwear industry is expected to grow to 102 million tonnes in volume and USD3.3 trillion in value. Moreover, the Sustainable Development Goals estimated that global carbon emissions need to be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 if global warming is to be limited to a 1.5 degree Celsius increase and net zero carbon emissions are to be reached around 2050.

Consumer awareness is growing, but not yet a purchase driver

As news outlets and social media shine a light on social and environmental responsibility in the fashion industry, consumer concern is growing. Mentions of sustainability in social media increased a third faster than overall social media growth between 2015 and 2018. Awareness is highest among younger people, especially Millennials.

Disruptive solutions and innovation are key to a sustainable future

The industry must innovate and invest in order to target the unsolved challenges in the value chain with new solutions. Fashion companies must join forces with suppliers, investors, regulators, NGOs, academia and consumers to create an ecosystem that supports transformational innovation and disruptive business models.

But as the continues to tick, there is still a significant part of the global fashion industry - 10 to 15 percent of companies - that has not yet embarked on any advances towards more responsible practices.

Article and image source: Pulse of the Fashion Industry, 2019 update, by Global Fashion Agenda, Boston Consulting Group, and Sustainable Apparel Coalition


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