How to implement fashion sustainability plans: top practices

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The supply chain from design to sales is exactly what modern brands must be looking at if they want to become sustainable.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about their environmental impact and are also challenging unconventional fashion practices, which in turn leads to the fact that they increasingly turn away from unsustainable businesses and purchases.

Emerging consciousness among consumers

Eco-awakening is a new trend in the global economy, as reported by the International Economic Forum. Consumers are increasingly thinking about how their purchases are made, what resources are spent on them, and what impact they have on the environment. Millennials and Gen Z are the main consumer segment that is more concerned with environmental impact.

Approximately 83% of young people aged 18-34 are inclined to buy from brands that share the values of these people, while among people over 55 years old, 60% are inclined to do so. In the United States alone, the purchasing power of these groups exceeds $350 billion, which is why fashion executives increasingly see sustainability as the greatest potential for growth. To make their businesses future-proof, big companies must increasingly think about how to make sustainable fashion and bear in mind the scale of the challenges the industry is facing.

What is sustainability in the fashion world? Do not confuse sustainable and ethical, although they can often merge together. Nevertheless, they have important differences. Ethical fashion focuses on the welfare of humans and animals that are involved in the manufacturing and development process. Sustainable fashion, in turn, focuses on the well-being of the planet and the impact of the industry on it.

Overall, there can be distinguished five ways in which fashion brands can turn their attention to sustainability issues and also start making important decisions about how to maintain sustainable fashion.

Considering why sustainability matters

There are a number of reasons why sustainability is important in fashion, and they are not just about being right. For example, troubleshooting issues across the entire supply chain can provide a financial boost that leads to business resilience, which in turn can increase operating profit by 60%.

Generally, 66% of buyers are willing to purchase a product at a higher price if it is environmentally friendly. Sustainability becomes an important aspect when choosing a product and helps to build a good relationship with a conscientious consumer.  In addition, caring for the environment will help fashion brands find new talents, as many millennials have found jobs because of the employer’s commitment to sustainability.

Paying attention to areas that can be improved

Once a company has identified its sustainable development goals, it is worth considering options for how to achieve those goals. A good example would be a virtual fitting decision, which will increase the resilience of some processes. First, based on digital bodies and consumer data, the company may not waste resources on producing wasteful samples. Secondly, this approach reduces the likelihood of product returns, because the accuracy of the selection of clothes increases. This in turn leads to less waste during transportation and packaging, and the risk of good new clothes ending up in landfills becomes lower.

Using just two user photos, 3DLOOK’s YourFit solution collects anonymous data on the bodies of customers and determines the correct size of clothes. This way virtual clothing try on results in a 30% reduction in returns, which has been already achieved by forward-thinking fashion brands such as 1822 Denim.

Taking the whole business system seriously

Sustainable fashion is associated not only with the final product, since every stage of the process is important: design, purchase of raw materials, production, transportation, storage and the sales process itself. So if this chain becomes non-ecological, then the value of the product itself ultimately decreases, pushing the consumer away.

However, due to 3DLOOK’s Body Shape Analytics, apparel companies get an idea of the shapes and sizes of customers. And then they are able to use this segmented plan and allocate inventory more efficiently. This reduces the risk of overproduction and surplus of clothes.

Listening to consumers

Fashion markets often suffer from return issues, with nearly 50% of purchases coming back and in most cases due to poor fit or style. As consumer values change, this practice becomes less attractive, since it exacerbates the negative impact on the environment.

Many consumers have already made changes in their lives to reduce their negative impact on the environment, so it is important to adjust to these values, otherwise the buyer will simply go to another seller.

Working together to create a sustainable industry

It is estimated that 10% of the world’s waste comes from the fashion sector, but it is still possible to remedy the situation and reduce harm to the environment if the industry works together.

Fashion brands need to collaborate with like-minded partners, as well as use proven practices based on new technologies.

Thus, machine learning and artificial intelligence can be an excellent and effective tool for driving business growth and sustainable development.

Can the fashion industry develop while being unsustainable?

Keeping up with current market trends makes it tough to build a sustainable fashion business. With consumers’ increased desire to be environmentally conscious, brands must develop and implement new concepts, employ cutting-edge technology, and keep abreast with new solutions like YourFit and Body Shape Analytics by 3DLOOK, which facilitate many processes for brands.

Given the current growth of a new clientele of consumers, the fashion industry will be continually evolving. However, in order to build a long-term business, you can stick to the tried-and-true practices and attempt to be more flexible and therefore succeed in sales.

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