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Global T&A industry needs to up its sustainability performance

"The ‘Pulse of the Fashion Industry’ report by Copenhagen-based Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) in partnership with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), reveals that textile/apparel is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil, and has ample room for improving its sustainability performance. The textile/apparel sector's overall score is low at 38/100. Big sportswear companies are well ahead of the pack with a score of 84/100. A performance explained by their sometimes troubled history in terms of the working conditions in some of their suppliers’ factories, as well as their efforts to deliver innovative products, which pushes them to tread new ground, in the fields of circular economy and recycled materials."

 

Global TA industry needs to up its sustainability performanceThe ‘Pulse of the Fashion Industry’ report by Copenhagen-based Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) in partnership with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), reveals that textile/apparel is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil, and has ample room for improving its sustainability performance. The textile/apparel sector's overall score is low at 38/100. Big sportswear companies are well ahead of the pack with a score of 84/100. A performance explained by their sometimes troubled history in terms of the working conditions in some of their suppliers’ factories, as well as their efforts to deliver innovative products, which pushes them to tread new ground, in the fields of circular economy and recycled materials.

For the same reason, companies positioned at entry-level and generating more than €8 billion in annual revenueGlobal TA industry needs to up its sustainability performance 001 have, on average, a score of 67/100. On the other hand, companies which generate less than €80 million in revenue posted the lowest scores: 20/100 on an average for entry-level segment, and 37/100 for the mid-price segment. The study observed mid-price players, by adopting solutions consistent with the size of their business, have managed to improve significantly. Only the luxury segment recorded the same score for great groups and smaller entities alike: 51/100.

The companies surveyed said they prioritise design and product development more than production processes and, above all, materials. The latter is a crucial area, where 89 per cent companies are keen to make further progress in the next few years. The study highlighted that, in order to respond to the market's and consumers’ expectations, short-term innovation in materials will be necessary to furnish new, industry-wide solutions.

Opting for a circular approach

Indeed, a few companies train their styling teams to adopt a circular approach, envisaging from the design phase how products can be recycled. However, the majority still has a long way to go. Workshops for garment repairs are also thriving. While the study pointed out improving recycling of discarded products will still need a few more years, the use of RFID tags carrying information on the exact composition of the product seems to be the best way to recycle it.

Analysts feel industry players will have to move forward collectively in order to truly step up to the next level. The main challenge identified by the ‘Pulse of the Fashion Industry’ report is that of leading as many companies as possible on the road towards ecological and social change. To make comfortable progress, companies need to implement a system for full supply chain traceability, improve the way they consume water, energy and chemicals, and uphold and/or demand compliance to standards in terms of working conditions. In second phase, they should be able to source a responsible mix of sustainable materials, introduce a circular approach to business, promote improvements in worker remuneration and finally tap the opportunities provided by the electronic and digital revolution. All of these changes (and investments) need to be incorporated in business strategies. The report suggests, companies which invest on environmental and social initiatives will earn themselves a ‘bonus’ in operating margin by 2030: rising to the new challenges will be worth the effort.

 
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