January 6, 2020
Back to work, back to life, back to reality, the start of a new year can mean many things. Often, we plan ambitious new beginnings, start new projects or new stages of life.
This New Year’s Eve I heard a rumble of consensus towards becoming ‘more sustainable in 2020.’ Pretty nice to hear, but on further probing, all advocates of ‘New Year, New Sustainable Me’ couldn’t really pick out achievable, specific goals, just a general, miraculous shift to sustainability.
For Vogue Italia it’s dropping all photoshoots for its January edition, choosing illustrations instead. A big move?
A few years ago we might have found it gobsmacking, but in 2020 it might not be big enough.
The McKinsey Report marks sustainability and innovation as defining themes of the 2020 fashion scene, a year anticipated to be fashion’s greenest yet with various targets and initiatives set to be achieved throughout the year.
Notably, Textile Exchange’s Recycled Polyester Commitment (2017) which encouraged its signatories to increase their use of recycled polyester (rPET) by 25% by 2020, has been hugely successful, such that the partaking companies (including adidas, H&M and Timberland) have already surpassed the 25% goal. What a win!
The SCAP (Sustainable Clothing Action Plan) 2020 Commitment is also set to achieve its goals by 2020. SCAP 2020 is a voluntary commitment initiated by WRAP that encourages companies to achieve industry wide aims together.
Currently, the SCAP signatories have surpassed the target of reducing their water footprints by 15%, achieving, overall, a reduction of 18.1%. However, success in reaching other targets is less likely, so far achieving a measly 4% reduction in landfill waste compared to the 15% goal. Not so good.
What links SCAP 2020 with the rPET commitment and other initiatives set to be achieved in 2020, such as the Greenpeace Detox Campaign and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), is that they all focus on environmental sustainability. Whilst environmental concern is important given the current climate crisis, we want to see more holistic sustainability in 2020 – practices that are sustainable environmentally, economically and socially.
McKinsey & Company note in their report that effective sustainable development is only really achievable for big companies that can afford to invest in technological innovations, research and new measures. A holistic approach to sustainability would include creating goals which are economically affordable, thus broadening the scope of companies and brands that can commit to and work on other sustainable developments. This year also marks five years into the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda, which needs support in economic and social development as well as environmental.
So, what are brands actually promising us this year?
Here’s a quick look at what some of the UK’s most popular high street and online retailers promised as part of the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment. In July 2019 the signatories had reached 21% of their original targets and set another 17 to achieve in 2020. Ambitious…
ASOS are aiming to launch a garment collection and recycling programme for their UK and German customers. They also intend to source 60% of their raw materials sustainably by 2020 with the long-term goal of achieving 100% responsible sourcing by 2025.
H&M have a number of ambitious plans including donating around 5.8 million euros to the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel. The group has also committed to various developments in their material and textile choices, intending to achieve 100% sustainable cotton this year, alongside working towards their 2030 and 2040 goals to have a climate positive action chain and use 100% sustainably sourced materials.
Inditex, home to brands such as Zara, Massimo Dutti and Stradavarius, also have ambitious investment plans, intending to contribute $3.5 million to textile recycling technologies alongside aims to establish partnerships with local non-profit organisations to aid recycling, reusing and reselling used garments.
But it’s not just up to the industry. Our buying choices can make a huge difference and will eventually influence the industry itself. So, what can you do?
SHOP TILL YOU STOP. January might be Dry in terms of fun, alcohol and, well, more fun, but why not challenge yourself to dry up your New Year shopping habits too. I don’t just mean refrain from buying yet another £80 coat in the sale because the bargain is just TOO good – I mean really cut down on any kind of consumerism. Use what you have, reuse what you have, repurpose what you have, and you might just see how far it can take you.
NO DAY DELIVERY. Fine, so maybe that first one was a little harsh, (remember though, we’re already one week into January so that’s only three weeks without buying) but how about this as a compromise? No more online shopping. No next day, no same day, no nothing. It’s handy, I grant you that, but how many packages promise a carbon free journey or biodegradable packaging? How many returns end up back on the shelves and not in landfill? Not every e-tailer is all that bad (can shipping, which produces extra packaging and extra emissions ever really be that good?), but if you’re a serial last-minute-next-day-delivery-online-shopper, it’s time to start breaking the habit.
PRE-LOVED, BABY. Ok, so I can see that you’re probably already struggling with those two goals, so if you must buy, try buying second hand or vintage. It’s not smelly, it’s not uncool. You can get super unique pieces, and super discounted prices – what’s not to like?
IF YOU’VE USED ME ONCE, YOU CAN USE ME TWICE. Clothes which have been sitting untouched in your wardrobe for years – we all have them – can be tempting to just chuck away when trying to squeeze wearable Christmas pressies in. This year, just think about it: what else can you do? Recycle it? Give it away? Resell it? Repurpose it? Landfill is NEVER the answer.
So, it might seem ambitious, but really doing even the smallest things help. Even if it’s saying no to one extra purchase, buying second-hand or wearing an old top rather than buying something new, it’s a start to building more sustainable habits. The little things we change, the everyday things we alter, these really do count. This year, let’s get back to life and back to sustainability.
Bring on 2020!