5 Steps to build a solid Sustainability Strategy today

March 5, 2024

How to navigate the complexities of building a strategy

In a world where climate change and environmental sustainability are at the forefront of public discourse, the fashion industry is under increasing pressure to adapt.

The demand for sustainable and eco-friendly fashion options has surged, and regulatory bodies are tightening their grip on the sector's environmental practices.

Fashion brands are called to embrace sustainability, not only for their reputations but for the planet's wellbeing. However, producing a successful sustainability strategy in the fashion industry is no small feat.

It's a complex, multifaceted journey that involves numerous steps, and tools and requires thorough planning and monitoring. In today's newsletter edition, we'll walk you through the reasons why and the steps required for fashion brands to establish an effective sustainability strategy. Let’s dive in!

Why: Defining the Purpose of Sustainability

Fashion brands are compelled to implement sustainability for a variety of reasons; some businesses are built with sustainability in their DNA, wanting all their operations to be in line with their vision.

While other fashion brands are determined to implement sustainability as they see it as a market opportunity or a compulsory requirement to comply with legislation. Whatever your reason, the first step towards building a sustainable strategy is understanding the "why" behind it.

Based on Fashion Legislation Compliance

Global regulatory authorities are progressively increasing scrutiny on industries with substantial environmental and social repercussions, and the fashion sector is no exception.

From restrictions on hazardous chemicals to minimum wage laws in garment factories, compliance is non-negotiable. In the EU especially, brands should prepare for stringent fashion legislation under the Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles. The goal of regulations is to change how the industry operates, from design to manufacturing and data traceability across the whole product and process lifecycle.

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Based on Consumer Demand

Consumer demand is the second driving force. In a world more connected than ever, consumers are acutely aware of their clothing choices' environmental and ethical implications.

They want to align themselves with brands that share their values. As a result, sustainability is not just an ethical choice but a smart business decision.

As 54% of consumers don't trust fashion brands when they claim to be sustainable, it’s clear that brands must step up their efforts to shift to a sustainable business model, establishing a clear strategy to gain credibility in the eyes of increasingly skeptical consumers.

Despite the urgency of this issue, fashion brands are often not equipped to navigate the sustainability landscape, which requires more than just good intentions.

It’s fundamental for brands to access accurate, science-based data to gauge where their impacts lie and set goals accordingly. Inaccurate data can lead to misguided efforts, wasted resources, and a failure to meet compliance and consumer expectations.

This is where Sustainable Brand Platform comes into play. Regardless of your initial position or ultimate objective, recognizing the importance of data to mitigate reputational and compliance risks, is crucial.

We provide fashion brands and manufacturers access to reliable sustainability performance measurements, ensuring that you start your sustainability journey with a solid data foundation to avoid greenwashing and comply with regulations.

Inside SBP's software

5 Steps to Sustainability Strategy Success

To navigate the complexities of building a solid and effective sustainability strategy fashion brands can follow these 5 steps to success:

  1. Setting realistic goals with clear timelines > Focusing on one issue at a time to prevent feeling overwhelmed > Make efficient use of available tools and resources
  2. Start small and scale up gradually
  3. Define the available resources of money and people
  4. Continuously monitor progress and readjust goals as needed
  5. Transparently communicate your sustainability efforts to build trust with stakeholders

1. Set Targets and define Scope

One of the critical steps in building a sustainability strategy is to set clear and meaningful targets. These targets should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Fashion brands should choose whether to focus solely on their operations or extend their reach to include the impacts of their suppliers and even the use and disposal of their products if they aim for full circularity.

The scope of your sustainability plan is instrumental in defining what you need to measure and manage. By encompassing your entire supply chain, you'll gain a holistic view of your environmental and social impacts.

An example of this could be a brand aiming to achieve a 20% reduction in emissions across its supply chain within the next three years. The brand might choose to implement interim goals, such as a 5% reduction in the first year, and set out a detailed action plan identifying ways in which this can be achieved and progressively evaluated.

Whether you’re looking to investigate your company's impacts throughout the supply chain or want to dive deeper into your products' environmental impacts, at Sustainable Brand Platform, with our range of tools and services tailored to the fashion industry's specific needs, we can help brands manage all sustainability challenges in one place.

Insight: What we have seen working with our clients

Not every company is approaching sustainability in the same way: Compliant-driven organizations on the one hand and ESG virtuous ones on the other, they all need to work their initiatives out.

Motivation and intent play a major role when a fashion brand adopts sustainable practices only because of new regulations mandating minimum environmental standards for the industry. In contrast, a fashion company that proactively seeks out sustainable materials invests in renewable energy for manufacturing and engages in fair labor practices, driven by a commitment to creating a positive impact and enhancing long-term sustainability.

Surely, we are pleased to see regulations such as the CSRD and AGEC, however, when following indications given by authorities, companies tend to achieve the bare minimum the regulation suggests to do without a proper commitment to the task or embodying the underlying reason for doing so.

Ultimately, they spend more time and resources doing the same job again than those making mid to long-term plans and slowly but surely adopting conscious shifts. Not having a long-term plan and only chasing regulations may turn out to be counterproductive.

Read: How Filmar uses our platform for its sustainability transition

2. Start Small then Scale up

Whatever your priority might be, it’s crucial to start small and set manageable goals that are specific to your brand and realistic to achieve with the resources you have available.

Develop an action plan that breaks down your sustainability strategy into achievable, incremental steps and realistic milestones and as you gain confidence and experience, you can gradually scale up.

Initiating a pilot program, focusing on one aspect of sustainability, or selecting a specific product line to improve can be a manageable starting point.

Although conducting a pilot is often deemed unnecessary, there have been instances where grand aspirations led to significant failures. We believe that undertaking a pilot program can provide valuable insight into the available resources and feasibility of the program at scale.

For an effective sustainability strategy, it’s advisable to assign responsibilities, set timelines, and regularly review progress. This approach also allows you to learn from your experiences and refine your goals.

Starting small not only makes the journey more manageable, it also allows brands to demonstrate tangible results, which can boost morale and build momentum.

A Real-work Example of a Pilot Plan for LCA with primary data

Working every day with our clients on setting out and achieving their sustainability strategy, we can share a real-work example. This one shows how we address a pilot plan for LCA with primary data:

1. Products selection

  • Up to 10 different products
  • The more heterogeneous the product selection, the more benefits are within reach when evaluating the project, for example:> 2 products for which LCA has already been calculated in the past to be able to make a comparison (secondary data)> 2 products where we use primary data collected in the past by you (eg: by the FEM)> 2 products where we collect primary data from the supply chain> 2 products remaining for complex products or edgy cases

2. Data collection for a single product

  • We can share proper documentation on the technical information needed at the product level
  • In case of missing data, we can think of making some assumptions well balancing reliability and accuracy
  • If primary data from suppliers are available, they can be used in any available format

3. Data entry for a single product

  • SBP account credentials will be shared
  • A meeting is organized to manually enter the data together and complement the training
  • Reading results together

4. Supply chain data collection

  • Once the supply chain suppliers to be hired have been identified, we will work with them to bring them on board the SBP Manufacturer software so that we can collect their resource consumption and let the software automatically allocate them to your products

5. Final results and pilot retrospective

  • We will read the new results following the primary data collection
  • General and retrospective evaluations
  • Intentions on go/no-go on the extended scope

3. Define the Available Resources

Sustainability strategies demand resources, both in terms of money and people. Money is essential for investing in sustainable practices, from eco-friendly materials to energy-efficient production processes, but people are often the most critical asset in any sustainability campaign. Their knowledge, skills, and commitment play a pivotal role in shaping the success of sustainability efforts.

And the good news is that 71% of employees view environmentally sustainable companies as more attractive employers, according to a 2021 IBM Study. So fashion brands must allocate budget and personnel effectively, ensuring their sustainability efforts have the necessary support and expertise.

4. Monitor Progress and Readjust

With a well-thought-out sustainability strategy, made up of incremental goals and supported by the right team and resources, fashion brands are likely to succeed in implementing sustainability, one step at a time. Although this is not a one-and-done endeavor, it's a journey that requires regular monitoring.

Periodically review your goals and make adjustments as needed. Transparency in your progress can strengthen your brand's credibility and foster trust among consumers.

Suppliers receive many requests from tens of clients already. Audits, assessments, and every kind of interaction are often seen as additional work. At SBP, we have explored several ways to increase the engagement rate with suppliers:

  • Introducing the scope of the request with group meetings (webinar), supporting and following up on the request directly with the suppliers
  • Sharing with the suppliers the output of the assessment and recommending actions that can improve their performances (e,.g. energy consumption is above benchmarks, so x and y actions can be considered)

5. Communicate your Journey

Communicating sustainability is one of the biggest challenges that many fashion brands are facing. Genuine communication around sustainability can easily be lost in an ocean of greenwashing. Effective sustainability communications should avoid empty, vague, and unsubstantiated statements. You must go beyond showcasing success stories and embrace transparency regarding areas that require improvement.

Moreover, it will be forbidden by law to use vague claims as part of the EU Green Claims Directive. That’s why the international lingerie retailer Yamamay, uses our Product iD Card solution including an in-depth PEF analysis based on primary data, to evaluate product impacts. Through QR codes on hangtags, they are communicated to end-consumers in real-time showcasing every step of their supply chain from the raw material to the end-product.

Transparency is key to fostering a sense of realism and honesty in the eyes of consumers. All communications should present clear and accurate information and provide regular updates, to periodically inform your stakeholders about your challenges and successes.

At Sustainable Brand Platform we assist fashion brands in both monitoring and communicating progress by offering data-driven tools and automated reporting systems that make it easy to track and showcase your sustainability achievements in real-time and back them up with science-based data. No room for greenwashing!

Click here: For a Live-Demo of our Product iD Card


In conclusion, building a solid and effective sustainability strategy for fashion brands is a multi-faceted journey that requires careful planning, resources, and dedication. It's not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and each brand's path will be unique. Setting realistic goals with clear timelines is crucial, as is focusing on one issue at a time.

Sustainability is not an option; it's a necessity for fashion brands looking to thrive in a world that increasingly values eco-conscious and socially responsible practices. With the right tools, data, and support, building a solid and effective sustainability strategy is not just a dream but an achievable reality.

Sustainable Brand Platform is here to support you every step of the way. We understand the challenges and complexities of sustainability in the fashion industry and we offer a range of tools and services to help you gather the data, assess the impacts, and develop a sustainability strategy.

You don't have to do it alone. We're your partner in the journey towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future for fashion.

💡Take the first step and book a demo of our solutions with our Sustainability Success team here. We are here to ease your journey.

Gaia Rattazzi
Gaia is a content creator from Italy and former SBP team member. She passionately advocates for sustainable and ethical fashion and writes for several fashion industry-related media with a solution-focused approach.

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