The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluting industries in the world, contributing 1.75 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by producing and transporting garments . However, consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious when making purchasing decisions. Not only do the industry’s processes affect the air, but also produce 92 million tonnes of waste, of which, 80% will end up in landfill, as well as consuming 79 billion cubic metres of water and uses 31 billion litres of crude oil; enough to fill 12,402 Olympic pools .
This consumption is due to brands following the traditional seasonal format. Designers are releasing Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter lines with fast fashion brands releasing up to 11 collections per year and as many as 52 micro collections. This rapid production creates excessive textile waste, much of it ending up in landfills which harms the environment. More recently, designers have moved away from this and are now creating timeless pieces consumers can enjoy for years .
Due to these environmental impacts, consumers have been turning to slow fashion and it seems that the pandemic has helped increase awareness of shopping sustainably, with more people buying from local and small businesses. A survey conducted by BCG found more than 3,000 people across eight countries noted that because of the pandemic, consumers are more concerned about addressing environmental challenges and are even committed to changing their own behaviour to be more sustainable. Not only that but, 70% of participants said they were more aware that human activity is damaging the planet after.
With increased consciousness of environmental issues also comes an interest in worker welfare meaning companies must uphold the highest ethical business practices and abandon practices that exploit people and the planet. With this, consumers will expect businesses to take better care of workers, with dignity, better security and justice throughout the industry.
Companies have seen this change in purchasing behaviour which has led to a surge in eco-conscious marketing but unfortunately, a lot of this is “greenwashing,” where companies talk about the environment within their marketing but do not actually enact meaningful changes in their practices. This leads to consumers being misled and misinformed and purchasing goods without knowing how sustainable the product is, making them susceptible to shallow green messaging.
A sustainable practice that is becoming more popular is buying secondhand clothing. According to Mintel research, in the last year over half (52%) of those aged 25-34 bought second-hand clothes, compared to an average of 43% from all ages. Chana Baram, a Mintel Retail Analyst, said: “The idea of ‘reusing, reducing and recycling’ has the potential to be a big disruptor in the fashion industry." Thrifting has now gone digital with second-hand buying and selling platforms Depop which have 30 million users and Vinted who have 45 million users globally.
People becoming more environmentally conscious has also led to increased use of technology in the fashion industry. Previously, brands would often say, “No sample, no sale” as sales reps relied on samples and fabric swatch books to conduct appointments. Now, we have remote selling and improved sustainability with the saying changing to “No data, no sale.” Remote selling means brands reduce their sample collections, in turn, reducing waste material and transportation pollution.
Virtual showrooms made with the right mix of software and digital transformation can provide a more engaging and cohesive experience to retailers while reducing the costs of servicing them . This is very true for us at BrandLab360 as we use CGI and 3D rendering techniques to replicate a business's current physical environment or build a brand-new bespoke brand experience. BrandLab360’s virtual environments allow consumers to create assortments and walk through the virtual environment with no restriction to location or time. Brands are now able to present remotely again, reducing waste materials and transportation pollution. Virtual garments are also a sustainable alternative as they can reduce your carbon footprint from 56kg to 7kg and sample lead time from 21-28 days to 1-3 days (based on 3 sample interation rounds) and garments do not need to be physically transported anywhere.
The big question is, will sustainability still be a priority for people in the future or is it just a trend that will fizzle out? Karine Trinquetel from Kantar's sustainable transformation unit believes it is here to stay. "During past recessions, we have seen a decline in people placing sustainability as a priority," she says. "This time around the story looks different. "People's views on sustainability have become reinforced, even accelerated. We are at a tipping point. All around the world, people are expressing an appetite for change."
Do you think that sustainability is to stay? Let us know below!