The COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow has generated a surge of interest in sustainability as fears for the future of the planet grow. With more young consumers seeking fashion brands that demonstrate a commitment to environmentally-friendly policies, apparel businesses are well-advised to engage in the debate and find sustainable alternatives to the way they operate.
How Does The Fashion Industry Contribute To Environmental Damage?
A consumer society driven by ‘fast fashion’ may deliver new styles quickly and cheaply, but the impact on the planet is considerable:
- Mass production of cheap clothing encourages a throwaway society, even when garments are barely worn.
- Garments dumped in landfill leak harmful dyes into groundwater sources, causing long-lasting damage.
- Synthetics, such as nylon, polyester, and acrylic, shed plastic fibres in washing that pollute the environment, even during wastewater treatment.
- With most cheap garments manufactured overseas, airfreight emits high carbon emissions which drive global warming.
How Can The Fashion Industry Be More Sustainable?
1) Understand Your Supply Chain
Creating a garment harnesses the skills and experience of a wide variety of stakeholders, so understanding your supply chain can ensure that you’re working only with environmentally-friendly partners.
Ask the key questions:
- Who are your suppliers and what are their commitments to the environment?
- Where are your raw materials coming from?
- From what materials are fabrics and trims made?
- How far are materials or components travelling to reach your production facility?
Increasing visibility in the supply chain will support all parties to work together for the same goals. Apparel PLM software can increase collaboration and visibility across the supply chain and optimise every element within it to reduce the negative impact on the environment.
2) Pursue A Reshoring Model
According to official data, 90% of clothes purchased in the UK are manufactured overseas, with a significant volume coming from Thailand, China, and India. Higher up the supply chain, there may be significant transportation of raw materials between countries of continents. Not only does the global transportation of materials and products contribute to higher emissions but, for UK apparel manufacturers, it can be challenging knowing whether overseas partners share their commitment to sustainability.
Reshoring – the relocation of overseas manufacturing facilities to the UK or Europe – minimises the impact of global shipping on the environment and provides a much-needed boost to local economies, eradicating the problem of poorly-paid workers and substandard working conditions that blight some brands’ reputation with consumers.
3) Source From Sustainable Textile Mills
Obtaining raw materials from sustainable textile mills is becoming a more popular option for apparel businesses, but it helps to educate yourself first in the sustainable alternatives to more polluting fabrics. Non-organic cotton, for example, is a harmful pollutant for farmers and local communities, so purchasing an organic alternative is a positive step towards improving your brand’s sustainability.
4) Consider End-Use
As fast fashion isn’t going to disappear quickly, addressing the problem at source is a more responsible approach. Apparel businesses need to consider ways to manufacture garments that are more sustainable and less damaging when they reach the end of their life. The choice of raw materials, for example, will determine whether clothes can be recycled or whether they are destined for landfill.
Take Control Of PLM With STYLEman365
At Option Systems, we’re committed to supporting apparel and footwear businesses to devise sustainable ways to stay competitive in the fashion industry. For a free demonstration of our STYLEman365 PLM software for the fashion industry, please get in touch.
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