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How Fashion Pioneers Use Sustainability To Their Advantage

September 27, 2017 Comments

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The fashion industry has a reputation for unsustainable resource consumption and excessive carbon emissions.

Fortunately, forward-thinking fashion pioneers are now taking action and revolutionizing the industry. By creating innovative products that reduce resource consumption and carbon emissions, the brands behind them distinguish themselves as purpose-driven trendsetters.

While experts have yet to quantify the full scope of the industry’s environmental impact, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is developing a program that will help fashion brands calculate the lifecycle emissions of their products. To initiate the process, SAC launched the Product Environmental Footprint pilot, which focuses on mapping out the resource consumption and emissions associated with select footwear products.

Although business is naturally competitive, the apparel industry — via groups like SAC — showcases collaboration and unity toward the common goal of sustainability. Specifically, companies share insights on how to measure and monitor sustainability metrics as well as best practices in resource sourcing, materials use, and manufacturing processes.

What’s more, industry watchdogs like Rank a Brand give conscious consumers insight into the sustainability performance of each company based on a rating scale.

With increased access to information about corporate performance and the growing demand from mindful shoppers, it is now good business sense to pursue sustainability.

Sustainability is a dynamic and evolving process; it is different for every company and each brand must embrace the subsequent challenges and opportunities as they arise.

That said, there are valuable lessons to be learned from brands that are developing groundbreaking advancements in sustainability.

Here are a few lessons from fashion brands who are carving out a competitive advantage through sustainable innovation:

Utilize technology to improve manufacturing efficiency: Efficiency gains are the low-hanging fruit of sustainability because they increase profit margins and reduce waste.

A company marrying creativity, technology, and sustainability to create cutting-edge products is Ministry of Supply. This apparel maker utilizes 3-D printing to provide consumers with what they call ‘performance professional clothing,’ made for the active professional. This process not only yields the brand’s fitted and flexible fashion, but also reduces manufacturing waste by over 30%.

The key takeaway is that making unexpected connections to improve efficiency, crafting novel designs, and improving sustainability is an excellent way to reduce costs, create new styles, and distinguish your brand as an industry leader.

Turn trash into treasure: As much as 30% of the leather used to make shoes is wasted in the manufacturing process, and an estimated 80 billion square meters of fabric is tossed by the garment industry each year. While this puts increasing pressure on Earth’s carrying capacity, it also poses an opportunity for eco-minded brands to up-cycle waste into novel products.

A brand truly utilizing waste products to create innovative materials is Nike. The sportswear Goliath recently launched a shoe made of 50% discarded scrap leather, which they call ‘Flyleather’. This innovative material combines unusably small leather scraps with synthetic fiber by grinding them down and compressing them together to form a durable fabric for sneakers.

The lesson here is that finding unconventional uses for waste material is a great way to create new products, reduce your brand’s environmental footprint, and carve out a competitive advantage.

Make sustainability simple: In today’s world, consumers are looking for balanced simplicity and meaningful connections. Companies that make it easy to shop sustainably and share impactful stories about supply-side production will be rewarded with consumer goodwill, advocacy, and purchases.

A brand doing an excellent job of making sustainability accessible to consumers is Marrakesh. This eco e-commerce startup curates sustainable fashion products for conscious e-shoppers, essentially bringing all things eco-fashion to one place.

Ultimately, consumers want to make sustainable purchasing decisions; brands that make it easy for them to do so will gain traction in the marketplace.

The key takeaway is that environmentally-friendly goods and services are in high demand. Using technology to develop novel products, turning waste into wearables, and providing an array of sustainable products in an easy-to-access manner are just a few ways that eco-fashion leaders are tackling sustainability. Companies that deliver these types of products will make a name for themselves as sustainable innovators and will be rewarded on the bottom line.

 

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Title image via iStock user fizkes

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