The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), and Higg Co jointly published a new report on April 20th, 2020, titled Weaving a Better Future: Rebuilding a More Sustainable Fashion Industry After COVID-19.
The report uses surveys with key stakeholders, studies of prior global crises, analysis of economic trends and consumer sentiment to highlight that the fashion industry must become more sustainable to survive global disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The whole fashion system is at risk. Without more sustainability measures, companies won't be able to thrive in the market after the coronavirus crisis.
"The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting societal and economic shutdowns required to contain it present the apparel, footwear, and textile industries with unprecedented challenges. But while this crisis strains their commitment to sustainability, it simultaneously demands that companies accelerate their progress on sustainable initiatives to be competitive in the market that will emerge after the pandemic. [...] Fashion risks irrecoverable self-inflicted wounds if it abandons sustainability and value chain partnerships in the face of COVID-19. While sustainability is in danger in some areas of the industry, companies that embrace it will be among the leaders of the resurgent fashion industry on the other side of the pandemic."
- Weaving a Better Future (BCG, SAC, Higg Co, 2020)
The BCG is a business strategy organization founded in 1963. It offers management consulting and solutions for technology and design, corporate and digital ventures, and business purposes.
The SAC is a group of more than 250 textile and apparel brands, retailers, suppliers, associations, nonprofits, NGOs, and institutions that aim to reduce the environmental impact of fashion.
Higg Co is a company that supports the Higg Index for consumer goods. It's a tool that measures and scores sustainability performance for brands, retailers, and facilities.
The report is divided into four sections:
- sustainable fashion before COVID-19
- the fashion industry during the crisis
- the meaning of COVID-19 for sustainability
- recommendations for the fashion industry
Businesses must take massive action to reduce pollution, waste, and carbon emissions. The fashion industry must change and become more sustainable to have a future.
To keep the trust of their employees and customers, fashion brands and retailers must protect the environment and the people involved in the supply chains.
Open dialogue and constructive partnerships are required to find solutions for implementing sustainability and transparency measures in the fashion industry as a whole.
"The pandemic has forced all of us to take a step back and reset our priorities. One key takeaway is that a new transparent model that showcases verified sustainable practices will have an edge over other traditional business models."
- Sanjeev Bahl, Saitex Founder, and Chief Executive Officer
The 26-page report insists that carbon reduction, sustainable materials use, improvements in social and labor practices, and circular economy models are a priority.
Conscious consumerism is rising and consumers are asking for more transparency and sustainability. Fast fashion is still very popular but more people are concerned with the impact of fashion on the planet.
Read up my article on why slow fashion is important for the planet today to understand the need to change the way we produce and consume clothes.
Sustainability was already gaining popularity before COVID-19 among consumers and key players in the fashion industry. Unfortunately, from April to May 2020, sales decreased by 60-70% in the worldwide fashion and luxury industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not only endangering human health but also destroying livelihoods in the poorest countries in the world and threatening food, shelter, and security.
"Companies will need to change and are already changing their businesses (every day) to adapt to the new reality. Relentlessly incorporating sustainability practices into these changes will be the critical factor that separates winners from idlers."
- Javier Seara, BCG Managing Director, and Senior Partner
The industry must move away from the traditional and linear business model of take-make-waste toward a more circular and regenerative textile economy.
Consumers now expect sustainability for apparel, footwear, and textile. The report confirms that a "global health crisis will increase overall consumer demand for products closely associated with trust, well-being, and the collective good – particularly in categories such as food and nutrition, but also in beauty and fashion, which are considered close to the body."
To build trust find customers, suppliers, and partners, fashion brands and retailers must remain optimistic, provide value, and take massive action for the integration of more ecological, social, and economic sustainability practices.
Sustainability is an important factor in the mind of young consumers when it comes to buying clothes. Price, style, and accessibility are still significant for most consumers but many of them want to buy from companies that support causes they believe in, such as solving environmental and social issues.
The future remains unknown but one thing is certain. Consumers expect that fashion brands and retailers keep their ethical commitments during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
As consumers, we have the power to drive change in the textile and apparel industry. We choose the pieces of clothing that we prefer buying. And we have the right to support designers and brands that show the utmost care for people, animals, and the planet.
What is most important to you when buying clothes and what do you look for in the brands you buy from? Let us know in the comment section below.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.