The fashion industry has evolved to support overproduction and overconsumption, with fast fashion becoming king. With consumer trends shifting and a desire for lower prices, brands are creating more for less.
This presents a huge challenge for sustainability efforts worldwide. Fashion accounts for 10% of carbon emissions worldwide, according to the World Bank. If this doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At its current rate, fashion is projected to account for “more than 26% of the global carbon budget associated with a 2ºC pathway by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation” (UK Parliament). This means that to meet our global carbon goals by 2050, fashion will have to make some major changes.
So, what are the options? The fashion and retail industries currently prioritize fast fashion over sustainability. With a climate crisis underway, brands need to think smarter and harder about sustainable steps they can take to mitigate their impact.
In this piece we outline overviews of what sustainable fashion is, why it’s important, and how brands can update their practices with some quick technological changes.
Sustainable fashion is produced and distributed through methods that take their environmental impact into account. This means that the materials used in production (fabric, plastics, metal components, etc.), the shipping practices employed (the packaging materials, the trucks and routes used, the shipping practices, etc.), and the energy and water sources utilized are all aimed at the least possible damage to the earth. Sustainable fashion also aims to optimize its energy consumption, water use, and agricultural practices.
Many brands are already prioritizing eco-friendly operations in major ways. Patagonia is a champion for the environment, with initiatives like their self-imposed Earth tax and their Patagonia Action Works program . 1% of all revenue Patagonia generates is donated to nonprofits helping our air, land, and water. They also outline their ecological footprint on their website, citing 100% renewable energy sources and 94% recycled materials . Another great brand for sustainability is Everlane. As of April 2021, 97% of all polyester and nylon materials were certified recycled, and over half of the cotton used has certified organic. The plastic used in packaging and the water used in production are both recycled. By carefully examining every step of their production and distribution processes, Everlane has created the model for eco-friendly fashion.
It is crucial for our planet that we can develop sustainable fashion initiatives. This is because of the massive carbon footprint that this industry is responsible for. Unfortunately, we must acknowledge the reality that multi-national garment corporations aren’t going to shift their practices overnight. To combat this reality, we encourage people to adopt small, realistic changes to their everyday operations. We’ve compiled some attainable ways to achieve a greener day-to-day for your brick-and-mortar retail store. Read below to see what steps you can personally take today!
Achieving a sustainable business practice is the responsibility of every modern retailer. There are major overhauls to your operations that can be done, but those are costly and take time to orchestrate. We’ve compiled a list of straightforward, time-efficient methods for making your business more green without having to organize logistics for months in advance. Let us know which are your favorites!
Retailers are constantly reprinting and updating their window displays and storefront signs. This is an incredibly easy area of your business to cut down your reliance on paper. While we have all heard about the harmful effects of plastic use for our oceans and our internal organs, we have started to associate paper as being a “greener” choice since it is biodegradable. It is crucial that we change this narrative, as paper consumption worldwide results in 2 million trees being cut down every single day.
QR codes provide an incredible opportunity to decrease our paper usage. Flowcode’s unique codes can be branded to suit your company’s logo perfectly, and they are all dynamic no matter what level plan you have. Dynamic codes are codes where the webpage destination can be updated at any time, as many times as you want. This means all of your seasonal sales, new item drops, and promotional lookbooks can get their time to shine in your window display without ever having to reprint.
A great strategy that many retailers are already employing is offering in-house tailoring and repairs. This service increases the lifespan of your merchandise, and it provides an upscale feel to your brand. By repairing the clothes for long term use, you can decrease the amount of clothing that is sent to landfill. Closing the loop on virgin materials is a major step forward in sustainability efforts. Retailers like Athleta, Banana Republic, Uniqlo, and more are already offering this service to their customers.
Shelf talkers are little stands displayed between stacks of items in your store. They often showcase sales, new items, and other exciting information for customers. Table tents are similar, but they’re often a bigger focal point. These are perfect places to display QR codes and link them to sales, new product drops, job openings in store, employee favorites, and more! This completely removes the need for reprinting and wasting paper. They let you provide your customers with valuable information for almost no cost to you and a much smaller cost to the planet.
H&M already does this, and they redirected 18,800 tons of clothing that would’ve otherwise been sent to landfill in 2020 alone. This is an initiative that any fashion retailer can take part in, regardless of size. Collecting unwanted clothing opens up numerous possibilities for reuse, including donation, sale to consignment or thrift stores, or even sending the goods to their merchandise supplier to be repurposed.
Since avoiding the use of paper is a main priority, we recommend that you have a QR code printed directly on your garments in the manufacturing process. This code can be linked to a stockpile of information including information on the brand, size, production process, materials breakdown, wash instructions, and so much more. There is no limit to how much information we can display about a product with Flowcode’s dynamic codes.
In the age of high-speed internet and worldwide shipping, there is no reason why we couldn’t all work together to improve the efficiency of our fashion. By utilizing digital services, communicating directly with consumers, and tapping into our existing supply chains, humans can help to set this massive industry on a greener path. Although a comprehensive overhaul may be needed someday; for now, we can all exhale knowing that we are actively trying to improve our carbon footprint.