From incorporating low-carbon fibres into the manufacturing process, to responsible sourcing, to labelling and marketing claims, and to giving back to production hubs, personal accessories has major challenges ahead as sustainability takes centre stage globally.
No more greenwashing, it is time to “walk the talk”
Companies across the industry have sustainability strategies in place and have started to work collaboratively to find solutions across the value chain, but there is still more to be done to reduce the environmental impact and ensure that products are manufactured in a responsible manner.
94.87% of apparel and personal accessories respondents said their companies plan to invest in developing sustainable products over the next five years
Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Industry: Sustainability Survey 2022
Further to the above, 56% plan to get certifications to avoid greenwashing.
In early 2022, the EU outlined a set of proposals that would change the way fashion operates by 2030. The strategy leans on existing initiatives and frameworks, with the goal to make products more repairable, durable and recyclable. The proposal comes amid other sustainable fashion legislation globally addressing issues such as garment workers’ rights in the Senate Bill 62 in California; greenwashing, with reviews of practices and claims in the UK, the Netherlands and Norway; and brand responsibility, with New York’s Fashion Act.
The UN’s latest report on Net Zero Commitments places strong emphasis on “Zero tolerance for greenwashing”. The organisation calls on businesses to “walk the talk on their net zero promises urgently, avoiding slow movers, fake movers or any form of misleading the public to believe they are doing more to protect the environment than they are”.
Social activism surges as consumers demand more from their brands
Since the pandemic, there has been a surge in social activism, due to a shift in priorities and a diversion from saving the planet to exposing and acting against social injustices. Cracks have appeared in social systems, which in turn have fuelled frustration and anger, leading many more people to try to find ways to make their feelings known. Consumers feel strongly that fashion companies should take a greater stand on social issues and act with purpose. Previously, fashion brands were politically neutral, but nowadays a brand’s political, public, and social affiliations can impact its relationships with consumers.
31% of consumers make their purchasing decisions based on brands’ and companies’ social and political beliefs
Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Sustainability Survey 2023
Social activism is likely to persist, as stories highlighting global inequities spread. Companies and brands must identify with consumers in a more socially equitable way, and prove they intend to help make the world fairer.
More brands incorporate resale as part of their circularity initiatives
The concept of resale or the second-hand market has always existed, but it was limited to thrift and vintage stores, or to low-income consumer segments in developing countries. Since the entrance of online resale platforms, this perception has changed, and the market continues to thrive. Several brands have responded to the trend by implementing new business models. This started with recycling and repair services and has evolved to take-back programmes that focus on reselling used items after repair. C2C reselling platforms are flourishing, and existing marketplaces implement reselling in their business models.
Resale is not necessarily a revenue driver, but by engaging in resale, brands can deepen relationships with both new and existing customers, and to increase their products’ lifespan: a key sustainability objective.
Consumers opting for resale are usually driven by economic, sustainability or emotional factors. The concept of “buy less, buy better” is growing, as consumers buy luxury and fashion as investment pieces, knowing they can sell/rent them later. Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Sustainability Survey 2023 revealed that close to 80% of respondents globally plan to increase or maintain their spending on second-hand or previously-owned products in the next 12 months.
However, the rapid growth in resale has raised concerns about defeating its original purpose, and instead leading to greater and faster consumption, especially among younger consumers due to their desire for newness.
To promote radical change, it is imperative for the industry to work as a coalition and focus on larger problems, finding new ways of achieving their goals, scaling up what works, and accelerating the pace of implementation, while working alongside governments, climate experts, regulatory bodies and, most importantly, impacted communities. To achieve significant results, it is essential to reduce unnecessary consumption, increase a product’s lifecycle and reduce disposability, while finding new sources of profit, rather than focusing purely on growth.