Last week, climate tech firm Aware announced the launch of a digital product passport that physically and digitally tracks sustainable textiles throughout each supply chain step.

It came hot on the heels of an announcement that EU Environment Committee Members of Parliament (MEPs) were considering a digital product passport as one option to combat a rise in textile production and consumption – or fast fashion.

The way tech brands are moving to help the fashion industry find a way to operate more responsibly is frankly, impressive stuff. Twenty years ago, it would’ve been incomprehensible as a concept that in the very near future, your t-shirt would have a paper trail leading back to exactly who picked the cotton that it is made from. But that’s because it wasn’t needed at that time.

I, for one, am absolutely in support of a shift to doing better when it comes to fashion production. And I do believe a digital passport is a worthwhile solution. In an ideal world, I am convinced it would tackle many of the issues we read about today. It could settle disputes where one side alleges a garment was made using forced labour while the other side denies it. It would validate sustainable sourcing claims. So yes, I am 100% in support of these innovations.

But one cannot remain naïve to the fact that many of the sustainable solutions being tabled as a potential fix for the “second most polluting industry on the planet”, are not going to come cheap. They almost threaten the future sustainability of the industry – an oxymoron in itself as a concept.

In the last week alone, we’ve seen brands globally struggle to turn a profit including Burberry, JD Sports, and – even the once-rising star in fashion – Boohoo, which swung to a loss. The vast majority attributed losses or dwindling profits to falling sales or rising costs of goods.

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In its April review, the National Retail Federation in the US noted clothing sales were down 0.3% on a month-on-month basis and 4.1% down on last year Meanwhile in the UK during April, the British Retail Consortium pointed out that while retail sales value grew, overall inflation meant volumes were down for both food and non-food as customers continue to adjust spending habits. Simply put, consumers aren’t shopping fashion the way they once were. It’s too expensive.

And fashion brands face a conundrum: Do they invest in offering greater transparency and sustainability so they can continue to win over the new-age, eco-conscious consumer and investors? Or do they take a risk and carry on business as usual? If they invest, who foots the bill? If the cost is passed on to an already stretched consumer (because ultimately someone has to pay) can we honestly expect sales to grow, and consequently economies? If you’re in fashion, you know all too well everyone loves to claim they are sustainability lovers, but aren’t always as forthcoming when the associated costs are revealed.

We’re at a checkmate; a crossroads. The fashion industry does want to do better – the initiatives from Shein alone over recent weeks are proof of that. Solutions are clearly available – great ones. What is not marrying up, yet, is the return on investment. Ultimately, fashion is a business and something’s gotta give.

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