Fashion’s need for raw materials and labour intensive production processes make it an industry particularly vulnerable to environmental disruption — as are the profit margins of businesses that operate within it.

Point of View


A number of leading fashion businesses are pioneering sustainability initiatives, motivated by both environmental concern and commercial opportunity. H&M has led the way in reducing the carbon footprint of its store network and has pledged to double its energy productivity by 2030. By that year, H&M also aims to use only recycled or other sustainably sourced materials in its products. In 2016, this share was 26 percent (although 43 percent of H&M’s cotton came from sustainable sources. The goal is to use only such cotton by 2020). “Strategic stakeholder engagement — like Organic Cotton Accelerator and Canopy Style — is vital,” says Eileen Fisher, founder of the namesake sustainable fashion brand.

Recycled Plastic

In February 2012, Nike released its Flyknit trainers, with uppers made from micro-engineered polyester that is lightweight and form-fitting. The design reduces waste by about 60 percent compared to traditional cut-and-sew footwear construction. And this month, Adidas launched three new trainer styles made from recycled ocean plastic. Each pair uses 11 plastic bottles and the company’s goal is to make a million pairs from recycled plastic this year alone.


In addition to increased use of sustainable and recycled materials, circular economic principles are being designed into products. For a circular economy to really scale, however, the industry must act together. Fifty percent of the industry is made of small to medium sized enterprises that have limited control over their supply chains.
Read more at Business of Fashion 5 Sustainability Threats Facing Fashion by Robin Mellery-Pratt.

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