New ideas, old habits: The fashion industry needs to rethink

October 31, 2023

Key takeaways from last week’s events: EURATEX, Textile Exchange and Venice Sustainable Fashion Forum

Last week, I (Enzo Savelli, co-founder and CEO of Sustainable Brand Platform) had the privilege of attending the EURATEX - European Apparel and Textile Confederation conference in Helsinki.

During this enlightening gathering, Mauro Scalia, Director of Sustainable Businesses at EURATEX, shared a compelling quote, "New Rules for a New World”, emphasizing the imperative need for regulators to adapt their strategies in response to the evolving demands of the sector.

However, amidst the flurry of speeches, reports, and social media posts coming out of last week events we attended (Textile Exchange Conference London, Venice Sustainable Fashion Forum and EURATEX Conference Helsinki) I find it essential to extend Scalia's sentiment with the addition of a "New Mindset". This time bringing into the equation industry leaders.  

Here's why I think the industry needs a new mindset to face the challenges ahead:

1. Embracing a Data-Driven Approach

It's no longer sufficient to discuss a Green transition without embracing a data-driven approach. It's perplexing that, amidst the ongoing AI revolution, the industry still hesitates to fully harness the power of data.

Especially in a context in which the cause (design) and the source (manufacturing) of impacts are decoupled, leveraging data is the only way to bridge this gap and build a sustainable industry.

As Inka Orko, from VVT, astutely pointed out:

“The technology is here and is already accessible”.

To make this data effort effective and not just a resource bloodbath, manufactures will play a key role by taking full ownership of their data a leverage them to build stronger partnership with other companies across the value chain including brands.

2. Rethinking Certifications

While not inherently against certifications, I am concerned that the fashion industry has sometimes exploited them, diluting their credibility in pursuit of simplification and burden shifting.

However, as reinforced by the sentiment of many manufacturers, certifications often feel like obligatory taxes rather than effective tools for achieving business or environmental goals.

As we move towards data-driven regulations, we have a unique opportunity to streamline the excess of certifications, freeing up resources for companies to invest in technology and innovation.

3. Prioritizing Tangible, Short-Term Goals

While I strongly support the transition to regenerative agricultural systems and the use of recycled materials, data makes it clear that a short-term (2030) decarbonization strategy primarily reliant on preferred materials is destined to fall short for several reasons:

  • Currently, less than 20% of materials used are considered preferred. Thus, even under the most optimistic scenarios, it will be impossible to reach by 2030 the output targets required to ensure all companies meet their emissions goals.
  • Robust scientific evidence regarding the quantitative benefits of these new practices remains lacking.
  • The actual impact of these changes on the entire material lifecycle is relatively modest, resulting in, at best, an 8-10% emissions reduction.

Investing in the industrial segment of the supply chain, as some are already doing, can yield comparable, if not greater, environmental benefits in just a few years. This approach leverages existing scalable technology, provides a relatively quick return on investment, and offers long-term financial advantages.

4. Sustainability as a Catalyst

Times are undeniably challenging, especially in Europe. While current challenges may be attributed to factors like war and inflation, tomorrow's obstacles will largely be climate-related. Neither monetary policy nor peace talks can avert these impending climate crises. We stand at a crossroads:

  • Resisting Change: We can persist in pushing back against the transformative momentum that regulations are instigating, seeking to minimize the current efforts, both financial and operational, required for a better future.
  • Embracing Sustainability as a catalyst for radical transformation: Alternatively, we can view sustainability as an opportunity for comprehensive industry-wide transformation, even if it necessitates a cultural shift in how we conduct business.

In a world where change is inevitable, the latter option seems not only wiser but also more promising for a sustainable future.

What are your thoughts on this? Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Enzo Savelli
Enzo Savelli is the co-founder & CEO of Sustainable Brand Platform, the sustainability intelligence solution for the fashion industry. With a master's degree in Energy Engineering and years of consultancy for several industries on Circular Economy and Sustainability, he developed most of the algorithms behind our software and leads the scientific team.

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