Sustainability: is fashion on a turning point or is it (still) at a dead end?

Business of Fashion evaluated in an index green transition, which has been one of the reference missions for the fashion system for some time. And it discovered that “while companies are talking about sustainability more than ever, actions are delayed, compared with public commitments”

Restarting from 42%. In other words, from the percentage (we talked about it here > LINK) that, according to ICPEN (International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network) identifies the current green hypocrisy. That is, the fact that, online, more than 4 green slogans out of 10 “are exaggerated, false or deceitful”. Greenwashing, in one word. The occasion to take it one step further is offered by Business of Fashion, a reference portal for fashion and luxury. Unfortunately, this step does not take us much further. To the point that one question necessarily comes up: is fashion actually taking a turn, as far as 360 degrees green is concerned, or is it still at a dead end?

Turning point or dead alley?

BoF elaborates periodically a Sustainability Index. According to its latest edition, “while companies are discussing about sustainability more than ever, actions are delayed, compared with public commitments”. Much storytelling (sometimes close to propaganda), few concrete actions. “The total average score of evaluated companies was just 36 on 100, with a considerable difference between commitment and action”, BoF writes. Then, it provides details of the green dynamics of some reference groups for luxury and fashion. Kering obtained 49 points, Hermès 32, LVMH 30 and Richemont 14. In other segments, H&M and Inditex got, respectively, 42 and 41, together with Nike and Adidas, that got 47 and 40. The known methodology is very significant: “Information on how the companies are planning investments is covered – BoF states –. Companies do not support their great ambitions with details”.

Easier said than done

“Many big brands promised to eliminate toxic chemicals or to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases – Business of Fashion goes on –. But they cannot reach these goals installing energy-saving windows in their corporate offices in Paris or in New York”. Data support what could otherwise seem an ironic statement. For example, LVMH quoted a grant for the protection of the environment of 10,7 million Euro in 2019 and 10,4 million in 2020. As far as Kering is concerned, they invested 5 million Euro in a fund supporting projects of regenerative farming. While Adidas set an annual budget between 1 and 4,5 million Euro of subsidy for measures in favour of cost-effective energy and of the generation of renewable energy.

The relationship with suppliers

In the end, to really reach their green goals, brands need to make their production area cost-effective in a sustainable way. Which is, nevertheless, part of their universe under the “suppliers” item. With them, they should share long-term investments in technology and tools. But, BoF remarks, “suppliers complain about the fact that they are often left alone, when the issue is paying for the investments. Instead of putting each season suppliers one against the other for prices, brands should establish solid partnerships, even if this could mean that the cost of production will get higher”. Luckily, it does not work like this for everyone. But that’s enough to prevent a real, determined, widespread sustainable turn from happening. And much too often, this is an unbalanced burden on the upper part of the production chain.

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