Seizing upcycling: 2 things to do and 2 things to avoid 

Upcycling is a serious matter and not a facade, communication, or marketing point. It is a challenge that requires straightforward ideas, concreteness, and the ability to revolutionise a company’s business model and its supply chain. Therefore, it is essential to define the perimeter, setting out in black and white what needs to be done and what not to do to get off to the right start

In collaboration with Altavia


In its latest report, The State of Fashion, McKinsey also pointed out that the path towards circular production is one of the most important challenges for the fashion system. The growing attention to sustainability on the part of new consumers and the possibility of rational use of resources are opening the door to numerous new opportunities. However, in order to make the most of these opportunities, brands must be able to make a revolutionary change in their vision and the resulting business models.

Seizing the upcycling opportunity

Upcycling is an opportunity in the direction of sharing more value. This is because it aims to use what would have been mere waste in the old linear models and create a new product of higher quality. In order to make the best first steps in this territory or refine the course of those who have already become involved, here are 2 things to do and 2 things to avoid.

2 things to do

1 > Understanding whether there are elements of compliance and certification

To help customers recognise sustainable production, third-party certification can make a vital contribution. Ensuring product circularity and compliance with all practices necessary to reduce environmental impact can no longer be the exclusive domain of brands. Common standards must be met because customers want to know quickly and straightforwardly what ethical practices have been implemented. In addition, the legislator has long since begun to focus on combating all forms of mystification concerning the ecological transition. Today, the certification system is extraordinarily complex, and it is challenging to find one’s way through the thicket of regulations and accreditation bodies. However, by adhering to stringent international standards, it is possible to obtain official recognition of circular and sustainable production with internationally prestigious certificates. For example, the Global Recycled Standard certifies the sustainability of the end product and the circular practices of all the companies in the production chain.

2 > Communicating “behind the scenes

Consumers are no longer satisfied with the information about the finished product. Communicating upcycling means incorporating each stage of an extremely complex and articulated process into the brand narrative. How is the new collection designed? Why was a particular ‘raw material’ chosen for re-use? What is the benefit for the community that this re-use entails? These are just some of the questions that brands have to answer in their dialogue with an increasingly attentive market. A market that demands a sincere and coherent response to new universal needs, the first of which is to recognise itself in the values of “sustainable” commercial proposals.

2 things to avoid

1 > Don’t think of upcycling as just a communication tool

A press release is not enough to be perceived as sustainable. As we have repeatedly said, consumers are becoming increasingly informed and are punishing cosmetic policies and greenwashing practices even before the legislator. It is necessary to think of innovative models involving the entire production chain. Proposing impromptu projects with the illusion of intercepting the green trend is a common mistake for new players. So is the absence of consistent communication. For example, the strategy of inserting a circular capsule collection into a traditional textile production is one of those behaviours on which we would advise caution. Upcycling can no longer be considered as a mere marketing tool but must be one of the levers of innovation of the company’s activity as a whole.

2 > Don’t forget commercial activation

Sustainability in an upcycling project is necessarily not only environmental but also financial. Some of the first movers have invested in sustainable positioning to gain a competitive advantage by pioneering the sector. Today, as we look to all those players who want to contribute to the circular transformation of the economy, we must remember the importance of planning, including commercial planning, for the new proposals to the market. The green revolution must have the ambition of saving our planet and must involve changing the production models of our industries. Virtuous products must still generate the commercial exchange that guarantees part of the resources needed to ensure the economic sustainability of businesses.

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