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Our experts answer your burning questions

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Sustainability is no longer a “nice to have” for the fashion retail industry: it is business critical, as consumers increasingly choose brands that take responsibility for pollution and exploitation in their supply chain. Cooperative 2021 Ethical Drinking Report showed that the amount spent on ethical products jumped 23.7% to £122 billion in 2020.

However, knowing how to make a real difference while balancing business needs and avoiding greenwashing can be difficult. For example, claims of “zero carbon” or “net zero” are in many cases not driven by reduced emissions, but by offsetting, the effectiveness of which is difficult to measure.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) introduced the Green Claims Code in September last year to help companies understand how to communicate their green credentials while reducing the risk of misleading buyers. They should only make fair and meaningful comparisons; take into account the environmental impact of the product’s entire life cycle; and be supported by up-to-date evidence.

Yet there remains confusion as to the most efficient route. We launched the Drapers Sustainability Clinic and asked leading environmental experts who work with fashion to answer questions sent in by the Drapers community. If you have a question, please email [email protected]

And we invite you to the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Conference on April 22 in London, where industry leaders will share best practice and innovation, to ensure your business is part of the unstoppable, clean, green and sustainable revolution. ethics.

Clothiers Sustainable fashion

Start-ups, SMEs, major fashion brands, suppliers and retailers will join forces on April 21, 2022 for essential conversations about sustainability. Along with a selection of honest discussions and inspiring case studies, the conference will focus on creating an open and honest space for you to share and collaborate with your peers through carefully crafted content.

From circularity and closed-loop textiles to carbon reduction and greenwashing, Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2022 is a conference that will physically bring the fashion industry together for a day of collaboration. It’s a chance to learn, debate these challenges and identify achievable outcomes for a more accountable and transparent future.

To learn more and register for the Drapers Sustainable Fashion conference on April 22, follow this link.

Does sustainability shrink profit margins? Should fashion retailers increase their prices to compensate for the extra costs?

Lucy Shea, CEO of Futerra Group, a sustainability consulting and creative agency that works with clients such as VF Corp, owner of brands such as Timberland, The North Face and Wrangler, respond

The short answer is yes, sustainability often comes with a higher upfront cost, as investments are required in more durable materials, supply changes, salary adjustments, etc.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean less profit. Sustainable brands have been proven to perform better and over time cost increases will balance out in terms of increased sales and/or cost savings through increased efficiency.

For example, a 2019 article by Unilever announced that its purpose-driven sustainable brands [defined as those that communicate a strong environmental or social purpose] grow 69% faster than the rest of the company and provide 75% of the company’s growth.

Currently, sustainable or “eco-friendly” materials tend to cost more. [The production of synthetic fibres such as nylon for the textile industry currently accounts for 1.35% of global oil consumption, research organisation Changing Markets Foundation has shown.]

Sourcing recycled or recyclable polymers or organic cotton can increase a brand’s cost base. The non-profit organization Textiles Exchange has identified cost as a major barrier for companies wanting to make their sourcing more sustainable.

But that can be mitigated. In the short term, the higher cost of materials can be offset by efficiency savings elsewhere – for example, energy, water and waste savings can reduce financial outlays.

The cost of petroleum-based materials is heavily subsidized globally. In response, at COP26 in November 2021, more than 50 suppliers, retailers, NGOs, industry bodies and brands – including Superdry, Patagonia and Stella McCartney – backed the Textile Exchange’s call for incentives for eco-friendly materials. the environment.

Many brands are still in the mindset of “we need to raise the prices of our more sustainable product”. But we can offset investments with cost savings through resource efficiency measures or employee retention – [a 2021 Yougov report found that 49% of Generation Z workers will choose to work for a purpose-driven company]or if CEOs, shareholders take smaller bonuses and dividends, we could ensure that a “green premium” is not added on product prices, ultimately hitting the consumer.

How can fashion retailers ensure that all of their sourcing partners adhere to ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance)?

Kerry Bannigan, founder of Conscious Fashion Campaign, an initiative that aims to increase fashion industry support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, responds

Embedding ESG compliance throughout your supply chain can be complex, but to engage with people and the planet, it’s essential to build resilient, ethical and sustainable supply chains.

You need to map your supply chain so you have a holistic understanding and can evaluate suppliers who identify and prioritize your values. We hear it over and over again, but it’s important to emphasize that transparency between supply chain partners is an essential step in achieving these goals.

Communication is a key part of the solution in improving the buyer-supplier relationship: implementing a supplier code of conduct is key to meeting your ESG commitments. This supplier code of conduct would include instructions on health and safety standards, as well as working conditions and working practices.

Complex supply chain issues cannot be solved by your business alone. It is imperative to collaborate to accelerate the industry towards a more sustainable future. Replacing competition with collaborative efforts among industry peers can foster knowledge sharing as well as best practices for supplier performance. For example, retailers and brands might want to join networks such as the Global Supply Chain Federation, a network of organizations working together to improve the flow of materials from suppliers to end users – or Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle. Network, a United Nations network hosted online platform for stakeholders from industry, media, governments and United Nations entities that enables collaborations to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Establishing and managing shared sustainable standards or an audit program can help maintain a strong supply chain and set expectations for supply chain partners. For example, supply chain partners must operate safe workplaces; treat workers with dignity; vscomply with employment laws; properly manage waste water and move towards recyclable/reusable packaging

By developing and communicating goals, action plans and results, you help facilitate best practices throughout the supply chain.

Implement benchmarking across your business and collect data throughout your supply chain to help you measure and evaluate your starting point and identify areas for improvement.

Share the work of supply chain partners who successfully align with your values ​​to show others what they are looking for and how to achieve it.

If we don’t produce excess raw materials, the replenishment time to market is much longer, which buyers/merchandisers never want. How to solve this problem ?

Hannah Carter, campaign manager at Love Not Landfill, ReLondon, a partnership between the Mayor of London and local authorities in London to improve waste and resource management in the capital, responds

This question can be approached from two angles.

First, the big picture. Do brands really need to immediately restock sold-out items? This default practice fuels over-consumption and devalues ​​the product, which is more likely to fall on discount or remain unsold and then end up polluting the environment through incineration or landfill. When a brand offers basic products that customers expect to always be available, accurate planning based on purchasing data should reduce the risk of wasted raw materials.

Customers who cannot purchase a sold out product will appreciate this product and future similar lines much more. It is also possible to collect data and build brand loyalty by offering to contact customers when a sold out product comes back in stock after a certain time. Brands can study online data about customer habits and if a product is searched for or clicked on repeatedly when it’s out of stock, there may be enough evidence to warrant re-ordering. Brands need to know their customers well and study their behaviors to reduce waste.

Terms such as ‘limited edition’, ‘exclusive collection’ and ‘influencer edits’ are designed to increase perceived value so brands can charge more, but if in reality these garments can be ordered instantly, it’s is essentially false marketing.

Second, we are moving towards a system of extended producer responsibility, which should eventually extend beyond a finished product through the supply chain to raw materials.

Brands should be responsible for using excess raw materials and designing flexible and adaptable collections to reduce waste. If this is not possible, work with vendors to cover storage costs and with networks such as Reverse Resources [a tracking and trading platform for textile waste] so that other brands can use this excess if they are unable to do so would be ideal.