Whether you’re a supplier, brand or retailer, a small startup or initiative, or whether you simply buy clothes from time to time - you are an important player in the fashion industry. You can challenge norms, change behaviors, and work towards a circular economy.
But you can’t do it alone. If we’re going to achieve the United Nations’ 12th Sustainable Development Goal by 2030, we can’t work in silos. We need to work together. We need to collaborate. In this blog post, we’re going to look at how.
First Things First: A Quick Recap on Goal 12
The United Nations’ 12th Sustainable Development Goal is to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. This basically means that we must reduce the amount of resources we use. That’s a challenge in most industries, but no more so than in fashion (the demand for affordable, fast fashion is huge, and the industry has grown to support that demand).
The Problem with Fast Fashion
The fashion industry operates underneath a dark cloud. A dark cloud full of statistics that highlight its negative effect on the environment. The statistics on consumer behavior aren’t much better, with 60% of clothes being thrown out within the first year of production, and 40% of clothes hardly (if ever) worn. But there is light at the end of the runway if we all work together.
Collaboration is Circular
There are four players in the fashion industry. Let’s look at each one to see how they can make a difference through collaboration.
Suppliers, Brands, and Retailers
When suppliers, brands and retailers join forces, they have the power to create circular solutions by creating (or improving) business models. They can do this by putting their resources together and experimenting with new models that might not have been financially viable otherwise.
Think about opportunities to change the way products are designed (design for durability), how they are made (reusable materials), distributed, and packed. There are so many possibilities, and collaboration is one way we can enable those possibilities. Fast.
Think about who you could collaborate with. Who has the ideas, skills, and capacity to bring circular concepts to life? That brings us to…
Startups, Innovators, and Initiatives
Startups, innovators, and initiatives have new ideas and solutions, but it’s tough trying to break into the market and compete with bigger brands. Of course, thanks to social media, it's easier for them to get their products out there, but if they teamed up with a big brand, they could make a difference on a much larger scale. There’s another benefit of teaming up with bigger organizations…
Think about how many people suppliers, brands and retailers have on their payroll. Each employee is a potential ambassador for new innovation. Those ambassadors have the power to educate the consumer and bring the message out to a much larger audience. And finally, that brings us to…
As a consumer, you have the most influence on the way both small and big players innovate. You influence suppliers, brands, and retailers to want to create more circular business models, which then inspires them to team up with startups, innovators, and initiatives to get the job done and effect real change. As a consumer, you have the power to demand that change. All it takes is a change in mindset, and a change in attitude and behavior.
Fashion, for all its flaws, can be a joyful, creative experience. It can make us feel like we’re part of a community. As consumers, we should focus on those benefits. For example, if we rent or borrow clothes, we get to be more adventurous in our choices. We can try items of clothing we never would have if we’d actually had to pay for it. When consumers change (when we change), the industry will follow.
Collaboration in Action
Enough talk. Here is an example of what can happen when we partner up. TOMRA and Stadler joined forces to create the world’s first fully automated textile sorting plant. Up until now, sorting textiles was only done manually which, as you can imagine, has been labor-intensive and unfortunately, all that effort hasn’t been met with much reward (only a small number of textiles are actually recycled).
This automated textile plant can sort up to 4.5 tons of textiles per hour, according to different types of fibers (including pre-consumer waste like factory floor clippings, and post-consumer waste like clothing). This is what happens when like-minded organizations come together. Real change.
Whether you’re a supplier, brand or retailer, a small startup or initiative, or whether you simply buy clothes from time to time - the choices you make matter. It’s those choices that will determine whether or not we achieve the United Nations’ 12th Sustainable Development Goal of reaching sustainable consumption and production patterns by 2030.
Where do you fit in the circle of collaboration, and who would you love to collaborate with in the future? Get creative and tell us in the comment section below!