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The next steps: Drapers Sustainable Fashion Conference

On 11th March, some of the biggest retailers in the industry were privy to a Breakfast roundtable focused on delivering a more sustainable future for retail. The morning session was the invite-only opener to the main Drapers Sustainable Fashion Conference attended by 300 of senior professionals from retailers, supply chain specialists like ZigZag, and material and technology experts. The breakfast, hosted by Drapers in partnership with ZigZag,explored the newly released Collaborating for Change: Sustainability 2020 report (which you can download here) before attendees were taken through to the main conference. Here’s just some of the lessons we learned from the event and some next steps to take. Sustainability action is being taken now.

If you are a retailer it is crucial that you have already or are soon to have your sustainability goals outlined. Nearly half of retailers will have implemented sustainability initiatives within the next two years. Whether it’s H&M, Marks and Spencers or Blacks offering a “Take Back” solution to their customers, Tesco banning hard-to-recycle plastic packaging from the items it stocks or Adidas becoming the world leader in sourcing sustainable cotton. Every action comes with a potential first-mover advantage. Implementing your actions too late could result in negative associations being made to your business with the more environmentally conscious shopper of today. However, sustainability goals also can’t be rushed, ideally they would target the most unsustainable areas of your operations but it is also crucial that the goals are both achievable and timely.

No sustainable step is too small

Make small changes first. Rethink the way you: use paper, use electricity, dispose of office waste, fly internationally, and even how often you allow employees to work from home. Creating a culture that encourages and rewards sustainable thinking in day-to-day business life will ultimately lead to more environmentally-conscious employees more willing to champion sustainability. Retailers can then take a more in-depth and creative look at their processes and operations, with changes to the supply chain and product-sourcing often leading to the biggest positive impacts to the environment but also needing the most resources dedicated to them to change.

Identify and avoid Greenwashing

There are plenty of ways companies can be guilty of greenwashing. Often sustainability claims are unfounded or unsubstantiated and in other instances, companies will present a vision of their eco-friendly nature they want to be perceived as, perhaps spending millions on advertising that perception, whilst polluting wildly in other areas, resulting in their overall environmental impact being unquestionably negative. For example, Nestle promoted a more environmentally friendly Eco-Shape bottle, but it was simply a positive spin on an incredibly unstainable as a whole plastic bottle.
As consumers become more increasingly aware of what they buy and its impact on the environment, it’s crucial that companies don’t get caught greenwashing. The impact of lying about sustainability claims could become far worse than the acts themselves in the not too distant future. Nicola Broadhurst of Stevens & Bolton outlined how it’s also important to notice when supply chain partners are involved in greenwashing and to ensure they are promoted truthfully. “Made in England”, “Made with “sustainable” cotton” are necessarily the most well-policed claims, and it is important to investigate those statements yourself. Fashion Brand Consultant, Elizabeth Stiles, spoke of the importance of transparency for fashion brand marketing moving forward. Customers are becoming more and more savvy and thus sustainability credentials needed to be more authentic than ever before.

The impact of fashion

One of the key takeaways from the conference was the sheer impact that fashion has on the environment. An astonishing 21 billion tonnes of textile is sent to landfills each year and fashion is responsible for 20% of the global water waste. Edzard van der Wyck, the CEO and Co-Founder of Sheep Included Ltd., the world’s first carbon-negative fashion brand, presented how brands need to look towards having sustainability at the core of their business model. Fashion brands now shouldn’t need convincing of the negative impact the nature of the industry is, and should look to emulate sustainability trailblazers such as Sheep Included Inc

The Collaborating for Change: Sustainability 2020 report

With many businesses quarantining employees and working from home becoming a popular choice in response to the coronavirus epidemic, now is the time to take stock and research into how your business can be more sustainable. Drapers produced the Collarboring for Change: Sustainability 2020 report in partnership with ZigZag Global, so download the report today for insights on the circular economy, eco-friendly products, the packaging problem, and much more!

Download it here!