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November 21, 2022

Sustainable fashion needs shift from ambition to action

Growing the fashion industry will grow the GHG footprint at the same time unless we carve out more sustainable models for production and consumption, explains Debbie Shakespeare, senior director of sustainability at Avery Dennison

By Hannah Abdulla

It’s now imperative we address the fundamentals of growth for sustainable fashion; that means fully embracing circularity, investing in innovation and scaling proven innovative solutions.

COP27 highlighted once again the huge amount of activity going on in the fashion sector to address the climate impact – but are we certain that it all ladders up to the 1.5 degree pathway?

At COP27 it has been very encouraging to see the interaction of countries, NGOs, corporates, and the investment community and foundations. This year at COP27, supply chain transparency was a theme across industries. What is needed is concerted aligned actions, huge investment, acceleration of known solutions that work, executable innovation that will meet the requirements to achieve the 1.5 degree pathway.”

Textile recycling was finally on the agenda

Two big issues finally made it into the COP conversation this year – fashion ‘greenwashing’ campaigns and the use of non-sustainable textiles. Both of these are holding fashion back from progressing on the sustainability journey. Both of these will be addressed when brands commit to Digital Product Passports for every garment manufactured.

There is not enough affordable, verified, recycled fabric available today to meet the needs of the fashion industry. Yet there are mountains of textile waste. Once this disconnect is addressed, we can begin to scope out a workable model for circularity in the apparel industry.

At COP27 industry leaders and policymakers were positive about committing to the infrastructure needed for fashion circularity. This is essential if we are to reduce textile waste, and tackle fashion’s heavy carbon footprint. As it stands, on average 8% of total stock across all manufacturing sectors perishes or is discarded annually, this equates to approximately $163bn worth of inventory. Quite simply, if we can extend the life of garments – reselling or upcycling worn items – and recycling fabrics on an industrial scale, we can make real progress towards the necessary sustainability goals.

Infrastructure for textile recycling

We are definitely seeing a boom in the funding that’s going into textile recycling facilities. There is a lot of EU investment and also brands themselves are investing in recycling partners.

Digital ID technology will play a vital role in closing the circularity loop regarding recycling. Once you have a digital label on a garment, firstly you can tell the consumer where they can get the item recycled in the right way, and secondly, it helps the recycler know the fibre content and what they can expect out of it.

Avery Dennison is well-positioned to help brands and manufacturers adopt a Digital ID-enabled circular fashion system. We sit between brands and manufacturers. We have developed the technology – both triggers and data platform (atma.io) and can advise on best practices for implementation.”

Greenwashing

Greenwashing accusations have been rife in the press this year and greenwashing was, quite rightly, a hot topic at COP27. Brands must accept that there’s no room for empty promises. I believe we will now see an acceptance in the fashion industry that poor ethical and sustainability standards will damage the reputation and bottom line.

Eco-claims by fashion brands must be properly substantiated. Digital Product Passports are going to be a big part of this as they provide the necessary communication and verification gateway.

Greenwashing won’t be an option for much longer. Item-level environmental reporting legislation is coming very soon – going live for companies with a turnover above EUR50m in January 2023 in France. Apparel companies need digital tools to help them track, report and verify the composition and eco-credentials of their clothes and packaging.

Debbie Shakespeare, senior director of sustainability at Avery Dennison was involved in the following session at the COP27 event in Sharm El Sheikh: “Minimising Climate Impacts across the Value Chain – Best Practices from Sustainable Textiles & Apparel”

Click here for all Just Style’s coverage of COP27.

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