Fashion Updates | Industry Updates

Circular practices are not being adequately embraced by the fashion industry.

Published: June 21, 2023
Author: Fashion Value Chain

-By Ankita Dutta.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Kearney Consumer Institute (KCI), the fashion industry is facing a significant lack of consumer education when it comes to sustainability. This study took place in Italy, France, and the United States, revealing a clear knowledge gap regarding the purchase and disposal of fashion products in an environmentally responsible manner.

The survey findings showed that nearly half of the respondents were uncertain about the difference between virgin materials and recycled or upcycled alternatives. A significant percentage of participants were either unaware that they could recycle their clothes or did not know how to do so. As a result, many consumers choose to donate clothes or pass them on to friends and family, often leading to garments being stored away until the next donation cycle rather than being effectively reused. Even the second-hand resale market, which has the potential for growth, falls short of its full potential.

In its third annual report titled “Circular Fashion Index” CFI 2023, Kearney highlights the lack of urgency among 200 assessed brands when it comes to addressing climate goals. Instead of prioritizing sustainability, clothing manufacturers continue to flood the market with new products and resort to incinerating unsold inventory rather than exploring alternative uses.

The report points out that manufacturers heavily rely on virgin materials and neglect to educate consumers about responsible ways to dispose of used garments. Additionally, the infrastructure for clothing drop-off and collection remains underdeveloped, making the sorting process complicated and costly. This lack of design for disassembling fashion products into reusable sub-components exacerbates the issue.

Kearney emphasizes that consumers also bear some responsibility for their limited exploration of donation, recycling, and repair options. The resale market’s popularity is primarily driven by profit potential. The report further highlights the inadequate efforts in communicating the importance of circularity to consumers. The development of rental services in the secondary market has stagnated, possibly due to complexities involved.

Additionally, there is a scarcity of convenient drop-off options for worn clothes, limiting the extension of garment lifespans and accessibility for recycling and upcycling. The availability of pre-owned items also remains limited, possibly due to the involvement of specialized players in this sector.

Despite these challenges, the report identifies a few brands that stand out for their commitment to sustainability. The top 10 brands recognized for their responsible practices include Patagonia, Levi’s, The North Face, OVS, Gucci, Madewell, Coach, Esprit, Lululemon Athletica, and Lindex. Madewell and Coach are both being recognized for their efforts to reduce textile waste and promote sustainable fashion. Madewell’s “Madewell Forever” program allows customers to return their used jeans to any Madewell store in exchange for a credit, while Coach’s “Coachtopia” sub-brand is made entirely from recycled or recyclable materials.

Looking ahead, swift transformation is anticipated with upcoming regulations. The recently introduced European Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CRSD) aims to align sustainability reporting standards with financial reporting. Sustainability reporting will become an integral part of annual reporting under the CRSD, subject to third-party auditing.

This regulatory development is expected to drive progress towards environmental accountability and transparency across the business landscape.

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