19 July 2021
As part of our ongoing member and business guest blog series, ACS Clothing has written about the challenges facing the fashion industry and their views on how to drive an authentic circular approach.
Is there a need for sustainability orientated legislation within the fashion industry?
With sustainability finally on the radar of fashion consumers everywhere, we are seeing brands take action to meet this demand with increased environmentally-orientated green product ranges and associated earth marketing. For the future of our industry, this is overwhelmingly positive. However, with sustainable products and practices currently unregulated, we run the risk of greenwashing techniques and consumer-confusion tactics becoming common practice throughout the industry from fast-fashion to high luxury.
Reward is an obvious motivator for brands to offer honest, proven sustainable options. Wherever consumers choose to put their investment, development, research and fashion trends will follow. As cost, choice and availability continue to be the key purchasing drivers for consumers, innovative and future-focused legislation could help to drive the spend towards sustainable options and away from resource- intensive disposable fashion.
The danger of greenwashing
As sustainability gains huge traction as a selling point and ultimately adds value, there is an underlying danger that retailers use the term as a marketing tool rather than a true reflection of their practices. The term itself is loose, and can simply be applied as a comparison, where even ‘eco-collection’ labels and branding can disguise linear fast-fashion business models and formidable carbon footprints.
Without full visibility of a product’s supply chain and production, greenwashing of consumers is a real risk. Customers may not be able to make educated choices on their purchases, and are reliant on the information provided at the point of sale. More robust labelling regulation could help inform consumers, giving information on a piece’s measured environmental impact, in order that consumers are provided with the information needed when investing.
Secretive practices are swapped for visibility where sustainability relates to the business model itself, rather than the individual product. Rental services such as Hirestreet and Rotaro pride themselves on pioneering circular models which have sustainability at their very core. They are able to vastly minimise resource consumption due to their operating model. By their very nature, such services also provide transparency in relation to garment lifecycles, as this is what sells the model to the customer in the first place.
Ethical and economic incentives
It is easy to be critical of greenwashing practices and the associated ethics of low visibility. But in order to push a truly sustainable agenda out into the mainstream we need brands to feel incentivised, with minimising environmental impact becoming an attractive choice for brands whilst pushing to the forefront of consumers’ minds.
Cost is currently undoubtedly the greatest barrier facing consumers as they make efforts to seek out circular options.
This is particularly pivotal where rental fashion is concerned, as tax is currently paid on the initial garment purchase, and then again and again with every hire. Eliminating the repeat VAT on clothing hire could increase the attractiveness of rental clothing amongst price savvy consumers, and in turn encourage a reduction in costly over-consumption.
Contrastingly, imposition of a ‘super-tax’ on resource intensive fast fashion goods could encourage price- conscious consumers to avoid such pieces and re-evaluate unsustainable buying habits.
Alongside continued consumer education and industry research and investment, focused legislation could offer a further incentive for brands to shift to new circular options environmentally. Development of this could further build on the consumer education which in turn would feed in to the appetite for circular and creative fashion options.
This blog is Part 2 in a 3-part blog series written by ACS Clothing.
Click here to find out more about ACS Clothing’s commitment to a circular and sustainable future.