Hector Ritondale asks what steps fashion businesses can take to drive positive environmental changes in the industry
It would seem fashion is more disposable than ever before, with research showing that half of all clothes are thrown away within 12 months of being purchased, some having never even been worn. The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year, which means that more than 11 million tons of textile waste is created in the USA alone, never mind the rest of the world. The increasing popularity of the fast fashion business model has seen a 400% increase over the last 20 years in the amount of new pieces of clothing the world consumes each year, a pattern that shows no sign of slowing.
It’s not just the amount of clothes that end up as waste that’s the problem, the fashion manufacturing process itself is resource-heavy, with the apparel industry accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions, a fact that doesn’t come as that much of surprise when you consider the amount of fast fashion garments manufactured in China, Bangladesh and India, three countries where coal is the main source of power. And, research suggests that if the industry continues on its upward growth trajectory, the sector will be using more than ¼ of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050.
It’s glaringly obvious that things can’t continue the way they are and, to a certain extent, it’s up to apparel brands to take responsibility for not only the waste that they’re ultimately creating but to also try and limit the environmental impact of the production, manufacture and transportation of the millions of garments that are purchased each year. Over 60 fashion labels have pledged to ‘go green’ by 2020, but for manufacturers in particular, pledging to ‘go green’ is actually a lot easier in principle than in reality, with many unsure of where to begin. Thankfully, the industry has never had so many tools and technologies at its disposal to drive positive change, helping fashion businesses to get their own houses in order before addressing the issue of getting customers on-board with any environmental initiatives.
The first step for fashion businesses should be to reduce the amount of resources consumed while securing a reduction in waste as well. To do this well requires action at every stage of the supply chain, from design through to dispatch, achieving efficiency savings wherever possible to optimize processes while meeting customer demand and, of course, turning a healthy profit. Some forward-thinking fashion businesses are achieving this by pulling together all processes and procedures, from sketchbook to store, with a single, centralized enterprise software solution. What this does is synchronize the entire product lifecycle of each and every garment produced, amalgamating data from right across the business in real time to ensure accurate, comprehensive and timely information is available at the click of a mouse, providing unprecedented levels of organizational visibility and transparency at all times.
So what does this actually mean for the business? Well, in the first instance, it makes it much easier to identify and rectify any inefficiencies at any point in the supply chain, for streamlined, effective, efficient production. And, by offering a deeper understanding of the complex, interconnected processes that make up the product lifecycle of a garment, opening up the lines of communication between design and production, for example, this makes for fewer costly remakes and redesigns, as everyone is ‘on the same page’ with access to the same information wherever you sit in the process.
It’s a similar situation when it comes to the efficiency savings that can be made through increased planning accuracy. Using data from across the supply chain in combination with trend and customer analysis, advanced Materials Requirements Planning capabilities enable intelligent stock reordering and intelligent inventory management for even more efficiency savings. Add to this Business Intelligence functionality for increased forecasting accuracy and you can ensure no over-production or over orders, matching supply and demand as closely as possible and reducing resource consumption and waste production considerably.
As the international expansion of the fast fashion model continues, the problem of the environmental impact of the fashion industry is only set to worsen unless fashion brands act now. It is possible to respond to ever-changing customer demands but without compromising on your environmental principles, all while staying profitable and competitive. By working smarter and more efficiently, making real attempts to minimize energy and resource consumption while reducing waste, fashion businesses can start to drive positive change in the industry, leading the charge for others to follow.
Find out more about how Argentis Systems can help you combat waste with the right software, contact us.