- Don-Alvin Adegeest |
Sustainability is high on the list of operational priorities for global brands and retailers, as their supply chains, manufacturing and sourcing are no longer acceptable to be vague, cloudy grey areas. Customers are demanding to know where their goods are made, in what capacity they are produced and more importantly, what they are made of.
As the consumer demands greater insights into the products they buy many brands use a meager sustainability effort to loudly broadcast their green credentials in the media. How often are we not told of a brand who has introduced a small percentage of organic fabric in a capsule collection, or a collaborative effort working with a local manufacturer?
How genuine are big brand's sustainability efforts?
While every step towards sustainability is a step in the 'right' direction, one cannot help the disingenuous boasts from retail behemoths for their 'efforts' while they continue to produce 95 percent of their clothes in cost-saving markets using cheap labour in countries with little regard for the welfare of people, animals, or the impact of processes on the environment.
The high street has been the main driver of disposable fashion
The high street is already full of green options, like H&M's Conscious collections, though it is typical of these corporations to make sure the consumer is boldly informed of all the good they are doing. Yet at the same time their footprint left on the environment by over-producing clothes the world doesn't need is a less addressed conversation. The high street, lest not forget, has been the main driver of disposable fashion, yet the slowest to take on responsibility.
Ironically, the year 2020 has become the target year where many brands and retailers aspire to becoming green. H&M, for example, have a widely publicized goal to use only cotton fabric free of pesticides by 2020. And this week Zara announced it wants 10 percent of its clothing to come from recycled or organic fabrics. This is part of Inditex's wider environmental strategy for 2020, where it hopes to reduce emissions by 55 percent and run eco-efficient stores.
2020, thus, is the magic year the fashion industry, and specifically the fast fashion groups, will truly embrace sustainability.
What is interesting in Zara's goal is that the company is partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create new, high-quality recycled fabrics.
MIT will launch a contest aimed at Spanish universities and their research teams to present environmentally driven projects. The winners will receive funding to develop their ideas with the support of MIT experts.
“We want to catch up with specialists in this field, which means us developing recycling technology and new fabrics," Inditex said in a news release about the effort.
Of course the mountains of clothes Inditex produces on an annual basis will show no sign of slowing down, but at least some of these mountains will have a path leading to a greener future. Let's wait and see what changes 2020 will truly bring.
Photo credit:Christian Boltanski 'No Man's Land' exhibition, a 50 ton mountain of used clothing