Summary: Companies in the fashion industry have the onerous task of operating at two levels to make a significant impact on their carbon footprints. At the organizational level, businesses have to work with employees to adopt sustainable technologies. But for a lasting impact on their carbon footprints, persistent engagement with suppliers and partners is a must. A factor that plays a major role in the companies’ growth is their commitment to meeting sustainability goals. Reducing the carbon footprint should be seen as an opportunity to look into the corners companies never bothered to check up on. Plugging the leakages with the help of sustainable technologies is a sure way to impact the profit and win the approval of consumers and stakeholders alike.
To begin with, fashion companies should have a fair idea about their carbon footprints – just to identify the areas that they need to work upon. For that, a monitoring mechanism has to be developed that keeps track of the company’s developments on the vital parameters of sustainability goals and actions. It is not going to be an easy task, considering the sprawling network of suppliers any fashion player deals with. However, there are benchmarking agencies such as Higg Index that can help in getting the company started.
At any level, it is a task that has to be seen as long overdue. By approaching the issue with this mindset, companies should not see setting up a sustainability cell within the organization as a cost overhead. The savings that shall accrue to the system by reducing wastage and optimizing operations would soon offset the cost incurred on getting additional employees on board.
Today, there are enough sustainable technologies available that make using printed paper documents meaningless. One can easily secure the company's documents on the cloud. Moreover, these documents can be shared with anyone at any time in the company. By doing away with the paper trail in the organization, the company not only reduces its carbon footprint but better organizes the business for greater profitability.
Around 50 million items of e-waste comprising laptops, desktops, and mobile phones are generated every year, and this number is on a steady rise. The e-waste contains materials that can be recycled and some toxic materials as well such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, which are damaging the environment.
Most of these wastes find their way to Third World countries where they are disposed of in the most environmentally damaging manner. Thus, a company needs to think twice before discarding a product and buying another. Moreover, companies can reach out to certified recyclers for disposal of the e-waste.
The pandemic had thrust virtual mediums of communication on companies. Fashion saw several events and runways being replaced by virtual events. Millions who usually traveled to attend the shows and conferences decided to join virtually, significantly impacting the carbon footprints of the companies. This also slashes the use of company marketing paraphernalia such as brochures and pamphlets.
The seismic shift in virtual solutions made remote working a norm, drastically reducing unnecessary employee commuting. It also laid the ground for virtual recruiting and other events. Companies can do well to develop a hybrid work environment with a long-term plan.
An adverse impact of climate change has been rising temperatures, inducing a spike in the energy consumption of businesses. Fashion companies can shift their manufacturing activities to renewable energy alternatives. Also, optimization of energy use in a set-up can lead to considerable savings.
Kering, Ralph Lauren, and Chanel are among the 300-odd fashion brands that have joined the RE100 initiative to completely switch to renewables for their energy needs by 2050. The initiative has stringent checks and rigorous targets to monitor the progress of the sustainability efforts by the member companies.
No sustainability effort of any brand can be complete without taking the vital cog in the wheel into the loop. The call for traceability and transparency in the supply chain is primarily aimed at bringing the suppliers and partners into carbon neutrality efforts.
Apparel players may well embed this goal in the core of supplier engagement practices and develop a matrix to push for greener practices by them. Bain and Company research shows that companies that had prioritized investment in the supply chain had up to 60% shorter product development cycles.
Fashion companies should at best be using recycled plastics for everyday usage and should look for sustainable materials to replace polyester from their production houses. Companies need to methodically identify processes and practices that can innovate and recycle plastics and other fabrics in their decarbonization efforts.
Nike, which operates in more than 50 countries, has signed up with Switzerland-based Bluesign Technologies. The Swiss company has created a tool for the textile industry that helps Nike find more sustainable materials across the world.
There is no finishing line to sustainability. Yet all the participants in the value chain have a role to play in making this planet a better place to live in while bringing about real and lasting solutions for de-carbonizing the fashion industry. Adopting sustainable technologies can win customers and stakeholders besides impacting the profit of the company positively.
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