Blog: Hannah AbdullaWhy sustainability must drive fashion's Covid reset

Hannah Abdulla | 19 April 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented the apparel industry with an opportunity to pause, reflect and rethink its future. Winners in this new post-Covid world will be those that reset with sustainability in mind – shifting to more circular business models that move away from the traditional 'take-make-waste' system and allow for more transparency along the supply chain with greater cohesion between brands and suppliers.

With light finally starting to appear at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Edwin Keh, CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), is in a philosophical mood. The industry must move away from doing less bad things and refocus on doing more good things with solutions lying further upstream and downstream than ever before.

Levi Strauss & Co, H&M Group, Nike Inc, PVH Corp, Ralph Lauren Corporation and VF Corporation are among 310 businesses and investors that have signed an open letter to President Joe Biden indicating their support for the Administration's commitment to climate action, and for setting a federal climate target to reduce emissions.

US sporting giant Nike Inc is rolling out a sneaker refurbishment scheme where it takes back footwear returned by shoppers, cleans them up, and puts them back on shelves at a lower price, as it looks at ways to reduce consumer waste.

And sustainable footwear and apparel company Allbirds has pledged that by the end of 2025, 100% of its wool will come from regenerative sources, and all of its annual on-farm emissions from wool will be reduced or sequestered.

Elsewhere, Japanese fashion retailer Muji has moved to downplay concerns over its decision to continue to use cotton sourced from Xinjiang, claiming on-site audits are carried out at the cotton farms it uses.

Tens of thousands of garment workers fired by factories supplying clothing to leading brands and retailers during the Covid-19 pandemic are being denied more than half a billion dollars worth of severance pay, new research claims.

Canadian firms could be fined up to CAD250,000 (US$199,000) if they are found to import slave-made goods under a new bill being weighed by parliament.

And global NGO The Circle is calling on the European Union (EU) to introduce legislation to ensure garment workers in global supply chains are paid a living wage.

Bangladesh has entered a week-long lockdown but garment-producing factories will be exempt from closure under government direction – a move one business owner says will bring much needed relief to the already fragile apparel sector, presently undergoing a "critical moment" in its recovery.

Meanwhile, the Myanmar clothing industry is continuing to struggle to operate effectively as political unrest continues following the seizure of power by the country's military earlier this year.

Uzbekistan has joined the European Union's list of GSP+ beneficiary countries, with textiles and clothing among the largest product categories that now qualify for duty-free access to the bloc.

On the retail front, over the last 12 months e-commerce has skyrocketed. This trend is not going to go away any time soon. But unfortunately many fashion brands and retailers are missing out because they do not have a fully integrated, value-added outsourced fulfilment service in place.

Non-essential retail stores across England and Wales have reopened, emerging from lockdown 3.0 after three months, with some experts predicting a boost in consumer confidence and the ability to shop stores may see online pureplays take a sales hit.

With planned outings and the promise of in-person shopping, online retail sales continued to show strong growth in March.

And plans by UK-based online fast-fashion retailer Boohoo to open a model factory in the city of Leicester will do little to drive change in garment supply chains say experts. A better solution would be for UK brands and retailers to join forces in a 'super factory' that would take manufacturing cost and living wages out of competition.

Sectors: Apparel

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