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7 lessons we can learn from Sourcing Journal’s latest fashion Sustainability Summit

Let's take a look at the road to 2030 for fashion! We review Sourcing Journal's latest summit to identify how far the apparel industry has come in delivering on its collective promises.

7 lessons we can learn from Sourcing Journal’s latest fashion Sustainability Summit

On June 1, Sourcing Journal, one of the great centers of news, innovations and trends in the textile industry, presented The Road to 2030 report in New York at its latest Sustainability Summit. A meeting in which professionals from the clothing sector were able to discuss the great challenges that fashion faces in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals established by the UN. An event that delved into the real problems that textile companies are experiencing and that sought to assess whether the initiatives taken promote real change or are just a marketing strategy. Here are the 7 lessons we’ve been able to learn from the last Sourcing Journal Sustainability Summit.

There are only eight years left to reach the finish line set by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals defined in 2015. Time is running out and the challenge for the fashion industry is ever greater.

The Road to 2030 report notes that leading textile companies are making great collective progress towards a more sustainable future. Cooperation between players in the industry has become a common dynamic worldwide. The report expresses the need to work together under the same objective to achieve a representative change, however, Sourcing Journal has also highlighted the obstacles that the fashion industry must still overcome before 2030:

  • A deeper and more measurable disclosure of the SDGs is required. The contribution of the private sector in the search for solutions to meet these objectives must be increased.
  • The main textile groups must assume their commitment and act as a reference for the rest of the industry.
  • It’s urgent that all those companies that are making promises support their commitments on sustainability with actions.
  • It’s essential for brands to measure their environmental footprint to understand where their impacts come from.
  • In addition to current policies and regulations, solutions are needed to create quality products at a reasonable price without causing negative impacts on the environment.
  • It’s urgent to achieve true circularity, one that gives rise to products that, in addition to standing the test of time, also have infinite life cycles.
  • It’s essential to maintain a collaborative approach to ensure the progress of technology that drives sustainability.
  • Consumers must be involved through incentives to modify their behavior.
  • Systems must be sought that allow the production of what is essential to satisfy customer demand.
  • It’s urgent to put an end to the exploitation of the natural and human resources of those countries that offer low-cost supplies and cheap labor.

The fashion industry still has a long way to go if it wants to meet the deadline set by the SDGs. The context indicates that these difficulties will still worsen as a result of the pandemic. In other words, the textile sector faces a potential loss of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

At BCome we believe in the muscle of the sector, in the capacity for action of the agents in the fashion industry and, above all, in the desire to become a driver of change. For this reason, despite the uncertainty and difficulties we are facing, we want to highlight the 7 essential lessons that professionals in the textile sector highlighted during their interventions at the Sourcing Journal Sustainability Summit. Take note of the solutions that will help companies achieve their high sustainability goals:

1. Traceability to uncover the impact of the supply chain

We have pointed it out on countless occasions, to minimize the negative impacts, you must first identify its origin. Providing transparency to the supply chain is essential to have a better understanding of your brand’s footprint as well as to improve the efficiency of production processes. In other words, mapping your supply chain as accurately as possible sets the starting point for creating more sustainable products with more efficient resource consumption. It’s a process from which to obtain information that allows you to guarantee everything, from the quality of your raw materials to the well-being of the workers involved in all processes.

“Sustainability is all about efficiency and with efficiency comes cost savings”. Kutay Saritosun, Head of Marketing and Communication at Bluesign

2. Textile circularity must be a teamwork

The linear production system that has been perpetuated in the fashion industry, in addition to causing numerous environmental problems, has also led to significant economic losses. The excessive generation of waste requires investment in innovation in the first stages of supply chains in order to classify effectively and better recycle products. Collaboration is essential to achieve the scalability of circularity in the fashion industry. Building new subsectors of the economy in record time implies a collective effort so that new technologies transcend faster.

“The incentive to motivate consumers to bring back unwanted clothing for recycling is lower than what you’d expect”. Kristy Caylor, Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder at For Days 

3. Legislation as a transversal pillar

Legislation is a great tool for change to achieve the transformation of the fashion industry. In recent years, regulations have moved towards circularity and sustainability, seeking to minimize environmental and social impacts. It’s enough to take a look at the Circular Economy Action Plan of the European Commission to detect the systemic change that is sought to be achieved through these regulations. From the definition of common standards for the declaration of sustainability reports to initiatives that seek to avoid the communication of false environmental claims. Europe is positioned at the forefront of sustainability legislation, but the United States gains relevance as a result of the New York Fashion Act and the creation of its own Green New Deal in California.

“Brands will need to decrease overproduction by no less than 40% and increase SKU productivity by 3X if they want to meet the goals laid out in the New York Fashion Act by 2030”. Matt Field, Co-Founder and President of Product Decision Platform MakerSights 

4. Financing opportunity for sustainable projects

Those companies that are looking for financing must consider sustainability as a must. Today, this is a key requirement that investors value when deciding which projects to trust. Despite the current market instability, ESG investing appears to be an area of ​​ongoing interest. Like the fashion brands that went online when it was an emerging trend, there is similar interest in companies focused on sustainability today. Businesses that position in the field of sustainability are becoming great investment opportunities.

“Any brand that is going to be relevant to today’s consumer and positioned optimally in the capital markets must have sustainability and ESG as an underpinning of its product and narrative”. Peter Comisar, Managing Partner and Founder of STORY3 Capital Partners

5. Connected products

It’s essential that the consumer has enough information to extend the useful life of their garments. The State of Fashion 2022 report already pointed to product passports as one of the big news in the fashion industry. In order to promote authenticity, transparency and sustainability, fashion brands are investing in technologies that allow them to identify products and add information of interest to them. Thanks to these innovations, it’s also possible to separate waste more efficiently. Currently, there is a significant drop in the quality of materials when they are recycled, this is because higher grade materials are recycled as if they were lower grade. Having better information is key to extending the life of textiles and improving the quality of circular materials.

“Everyone wants to hit a home run when it comes to R&D, but don’t overlook opportunities that take you to first base”. Rob Smith, Director, Production & Sourcing at UpWest. 

6. Understanding what the customer is looking for through sustainability

After the pandemic, more and more consumers have become aware of the impact of their purchases. However, even if brands invest heavily in researching what their customers are looking for, the reality is that it’s impossible to get a single answer. The demand for sustainable products varies greatly depending on the generational group analyzed. Generation Z is willing to pay much more for sustainable products than baby boomers, for example. In any case, transparency is essential to redefine the relationship that fashion brands have with their consumer. Sharing data on the environmental and social impact of your products will generate a greater understanding of the work that the brand is developing. An honest exercise that will increase the trust placed by consumers in your company, since it will allow them to make more conscious purchase decisions based on verified data.

“Different generations value different aspects of sustainability”. Greg Petro, Chief Executive Officer & Founder at First Insight

7. Sustainability as a value enabler

Different studies show that sustainability initiatives have positive financial results. However, its implementation continues to be difficult for some brands. Gaining a competitive advantage in the fashion industry through sustainability lies in the extension of the commitment. Its responsibility must be implemented in the long term and spread throughout the entire business model, involving both the entire company and its stakeholders. Having a mission that is bigger than the company’s business purpose will contribute significantly to both the business model and sustainability goals. The measurement and evaluation of the progress of your business will be what allows you to discover its growth. Quantify your sustainability initiatives and establish reporting methodologies that fit the needs of your company.

“It was really important to work with a third party, not just because we believe them more than our own internal findings, but because it shows that we’re serious about actively learning”. Elias Stahl, CEO and co-founder at HILOS

With sustainability becoming an imperative, more and more companies are implementing strategies towards a more responsible future. The road to reach the objectives set for the year 2030 is still long and we wonder what the consequences will be if the industry doesn’t arrive on time.

At BCome we want to help you achieve your goals and put our solutions at the service of your business to accelerate the sustainable transformation of your brand. We are here to be part of your future, shall we talk?

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