What is next for sustainable fashion?

The circular economy will transform the apparel industry.

Material efficiency, alternative supply chains and zero waste will become the norm.

There is so much buzz around the circular economy. The World Economic Forum in Davos featured the circular economy at its prestigious annual meeting. Two apparel brands, Patagonia and Nike won The Accenture Strategy Award for Circular Economy Multinational.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose mission is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, is attracting brands who are pledging to reduce waste and drive efficiency.

The apparel industry has embraced the circular economy as an innovation platform and sustainability initiative. Simply put, building a product and supply chain strategy that incorporates the circular economy makes good business sense.

What is the Circular Economy?

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. It aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. Individuals and businesses should rely less on finite resources and rethink the notion of waste.

What does the circular economy mean for apparel?

The apparel industry has introduced many supply chain initiatives and products that fall under the circular economy. These ideas, and many more, will feed into sustainability strategies that brands must implement to reduce the abundance of waste this industry has created. Some of the initiatives include:

1)   Reducing waste during manufacturing. Nike won the prize because 71% of its footwear and apparel includes recycled materials, such as factory scraps.

2)   Repairing old and broken products instead of throwing them away. Patagonia shared the prize with Nike because it repairs old and damaged products. The company employs over 60 repair people who fix over 45,000 garments per year, diverting waste from  landfills and supporting a zero waste initiative.

3)   Recycling materials. Polyester apparel can be made from recycled plastic. Repreve, a recycled polyester fiber is made from plastic bottles and then sold to many apparel brands.

Cotton can also be recycled into a new fiber. Start-up company Evrnu takes old garment waste, converts it into pulp and extrudes it into a new fiber. Evrnu’s product is finer than silk and stronger than cotton.

4)   Making quality, long-lasting products. On Black Friday 2011, Patagonia introduced their buy this jacket campaign and recommended consumers purchase fewer products.

5)   Take-back programs offered by H&M and Levi Strauss, where worn products can be dropped off at retail stores. Marks and Spencers introduced shwopping, which allows customers to return old clothing and receive store credit.

6)   Repurposing products into something else of value. Jeans can be repurposed into bags and purses and Bonded Logic makes building insulation material from denim factory scraps.

Impacts to your business?

Questions to consider:

  • Does your company embrace the circular economy?
  • Is innovation a priority?

For help with any issue associated with sustainability and chemicals, contact Amanda Cattermole at (415) 412 8406 or Amanda@cattermoleconsulting.com. We can help you develop powerful solutions to protect your company and brand reputation and result in safer products manufactured in cleaner supply chains.

Tips and Insights contains information to help you make informed chemical management decisions. Each post highlights a particular topic and includes questions you may want to consider for your business.

Posted on: Feb 05, 2017 in Innovation

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