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May 16, 2019

New Google pilot to measure fashion’s environmental impact

By Beth Wright

Tech giant Google is to partner with British luxury fashion brand Stella McCartney on a pilot project that aims to use supply chain data to measure the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

Announced yesterday (15 May) at the ongoing Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the move will initially see Google build a tool that uses data analytics and machine learning on Google Cloud to give brands a more comprehensive view into their supply chain, particularly at the level of raw material production, referred to in the industry as Tier 4 of the supply chain.

“We’ll be looking initially at cotton and viscose, each chosen due to the scale of their production, data availability and impact considerations,” Nick Martin, head of retail at Google Cloud, explained in a blog post. 

The pilot will enable Google to test the effectiveness of the tool on these different raw materials, building out the possibilities for expansion into a wider variety of key textiles in the market down the line.

The plan is to include data sources that allow companies to better measure the impact of their raw materials, relevant to key environmental factors such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water scarcity. The goal, Martin pointed out, is not only to be able to determine the impact of producing these raw materials, but also compare the impacts of these in different regions where they are produced.

“This is the first phase of our experiment. We are actively working with fashion brands, experts, NGOs and industry bodies with the ambition of creating an open industry-wide tool, and plan to continue driving collaboration with other key players – large and small. We hope that our experiment will give fashion brands greater visibility of impact within their supply chain and actionable insights to make better raw material sourcing decisions with sustainability in mind,” he said in the blog post. 

The project, which comes in the wake of Google’s work with Current Global, an innovation consultancy that empowers fashion brands to reach their sustainability goals through the use of relevant technologies, will be in close collaboration with Stella McCartney – a “pioneer” in leading the fashion industry towards sustainability.

By working together through this pilot project, Google hopes to translate data into meaningful insights so the industry can take action.

“At Stella McCartney we have been continuously focusing on looking at responsible and sustainable ways to conduct ourselves in fashion, it is at the heart of what we do. We are trying our best – we aren’t perfect, but we are opening a conversation that hasn’t really been had in the history of fashion,” Stella McCartney said. 

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