Well Documented Facts
In the past 25 years, fast fashion has made shopping for clothes more affordable, but it has come at a devastating environmental cost. We consume about 80 billion items of clothing annually.
On average, consumers buy a least 60% more garments than they did 15 years ago and keep them only half as long.
We create 13 million tons of textile waste annually. Up to 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year, or the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.
The fashion industry produces up to 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and is among the top polluters with energy, agriculture, transportation and construction. It could double by 2050 if fashion brands do not act.
The impact of fashion doesn’t end in the retail store; washing clothes, meanwhile, releases 500,000 tons of microfibers into the ocean each year which is the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
An estimated 35% of all microplastics in the ocean is made of synthetic textiles like polyester.
Besides the industry’s impact on climate and ocean, fashion’s impact on biodiversity loss is also considered as apparel supply chains are directly linked to soil degradation, the conversation of the natural ecosystem and waterway pollution.
The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply and is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide, mostly because of textile dyeing. The process uses enough water to fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools each year.
China: Sustainability Leader?
Within a few years, the fashion industry in China will have to operate very differently. To stay relevant, fashion brands will have to have achieved a certain degree of sustainability in their operations, at most, within 5 years.
In September 2020 President Xi announced that by 2030, China should have reached peak carbon emission and by 2060, the country would be carbon neutral.
The sustainable transformation of the Chinese economy is launched. Local authorities are taking action on climate and the environment and will increasingly force businesses to modify their operations with regulations and policies.
For several years now, China has been at the centre of global supply and demand for renewable energy, leading it to account for about 40 percent of capacity growth from 2015 to 2020. In the coming years, China is expected to remain the global leader in renewable energy capacity growth, despite phasing out subsidies and its heavy reliance on coal.
The essential enablers that will allow sustainability to succeed are in place in China: Policies, Infrastructure, Technology, Investment, and Strong top management.
Requested by their headquarters overseas, foreign fashion brands can no longer separate their global sustainability strategy from their China operations, particularly with waste management and the use of certain pollutants.
Gen Z consumers in China are increasingly seeking sustainable products & services and want to be associated with brands that do better. This trend will only accelerate.
It is obviously not a simple and quick path to becoming a responsible fashion brand. Reaching carbon neutrality within 25 to 35 years and joining the effort to limit climate change to +2°C, requires a radical transformation of any company’s operations.
But there is a tremendous opportunity for fashion brands to launch their own sustainability transition and be recognized as leaders by the authorities, investors, consumers and employees.
Those companies which keep delaying their transformation may only regret it and pay the price later, as they may not be given the appropriate time to transform when urged to do so by the authorities.
Technology and current innovative solutions mostly already exist to launch a brand’s transformation and the cost of these tools is rapidly decreasing, but it is often slowed down by some stakeholders’ mindsets, lack of urgency and concerns for their own personal interests.
Sustainability is not about slowing down the growth or profitability of a business.
Continuing to drive business growth
Developing new business streams
Making a brand attractive to younger consumers
Innovating through sustainability
Refusing to compromise the future of the planet
Elevating brand recognition
Cutting costs by reducing waste and increasing efficiencies
Being prepared for a disrupted planet and government policies.
Attracting talented and motivated young employees