Sustainability Pulse #11

Sustainability Trends & News Worth Exploring — October 18

Good morning

Welcome back to another Sustainability Pulse!

Can sustainability save the fashion industry?

My inbox and bookshelf have been groaning lately under the heft of some weighty books, essays and reports proclaiming a kinder, gentler era for the fashion industry.

This idea isn't exactly new. For years — decades, even — there has been a steady stream of visions and policies, variously reforming, rethinking, reimagining, reinventing, redefining and rebooting the supply chain that makes for the garment production. But, unfortunately, most of those visions and proposals were exiled to a relatively small group of activists and entrepreneurs working in a world unto themselves for most of those years.

While we can reduce our fashion footprint by donating old clothes and buying secondhand, not enough do this because we are so obsessed with new things. We need to rethink our fashion habits if we continue making clothes that do not respect our environment.

This week we're starting with good news only.

Designers Try Selling Clothes First, Making Them Later

Some items on fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff's website, including a $158 Gigi top and $248 Darcy dress, don't exist.

They are part of a new way of making clothes that attempts to solve a problem bedevilling the fashion industry: Most brands produce too many goods, which leads to heavy discounting to clear unsold items. In addition to hurting the bottom line, the overproduction adds waste as unwanted merchandise ends up in landfills.

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The rise of sustainable labelling in the fashion industry

With sustainability becoming a more important factor in purchasing decisions, many consumers begin to check their clothing labels to see whether they carry more information than just the fabric composition and care directions.

An ecolabel is a voluntary tag that certifies a garment or product as sustainable by listing its full credentials. According to the Ecolabel Index, an independent global directory of ecolabels and certification schemes, there are currently more than 450 different ecolabels (Ecolabel Index) across 25 other sectors on the market.

Although most of these ecolabels have emerged over the past two decades, each certification adheres to a different standard, which can sometimes be confusing for consumers to comprehend which label is reliable.

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California Legislature Sends Bill Limiting Recycling Claims to Governor's Desk

On September 9, 2021, the California legislature passed SB 343, Truth in Labeling for Recyclable Materials. If signed by Governor Newsom on or before October 10, 2021, the bill will likely place significant restrictions on recyclability claims in the state, potentially as early as January 1, 2024.

SB 343 would restrict recyclability claims by narrowing California's universe of "consumer goods" and packaging considered "recyclable". The bill declares use of the chasing arrows symbol, the chasing arrows symbol surrounding a resin identification code, or any other symbol or statement indicating recyclability to be deceptive or misleading unless the product or packaging is considered recyclable under statewide recyclability criteria to be developed by CalRecycle. SB 343, Proposed Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 42355.51(b)(1).

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Will Buying Less Make Me Happier?

Is it really true? Over time, clothing has decreased in price (most often at the expense of exploited garment workers) and increased in accessibility, thanks to same-day delivery making it easier than ever to shop. Meanwhile, social media constantly triggers FOMO, telling us not only that we must buy something because someone else has it but that once we've worn an outfit – and satisfied our brains with that hit of dopamine – it can't be worn again.

In the research paper turned book, The High Price of Materialism, Tim Kasser offers a scientific exploration of our culture of consumerism, finding that people who consider material belongings and assets important are less satisfied overall than those who don't. Happily, the digitalization of our daily lives has enabled more sustainable movements to flourish: from low waste to slow fashion to the sharing economy (renting a dreamy dress for a special event is now as normal as the way we used to view shopping new), 'less is more' has never felt truer.

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3 ways social innovators are driving systemic change, from creating sustainable fashion to supporting refugees

Social innovators are addressing some of the world’s biggest social and environmental problems in radically new ways. They are pioneering novel systemic solutions to transform industries and reach millions of vulnerable people.

-Creating sustainable fashion

-Supporting urban refugees

-Treating addiction and mental health issues

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an important moment in the evolution of telemedicine, as doctors and patients have turned to online tools to maintain regular interactions. Medical experts are taking notice.

“There’s much more of an evidence base now behind digital mental health care,” said Ilina Singh, Professor of Neuroscience & Society at the University of Oxford. “I work a lot in low- and middle-income countries so I hope that it will expand into that setting as well.”

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Why Fashion Brands are Betting Big on Sustainability

Fashion brands are betting big on sustainability because it is the only way to survive on this planet and as a company. But, while some brands had the foresight to see the writing on the wall and our responsibility towards future generations, some have changed their course of action as they became aware that it will be mandated by law in the near future. And, those who are looking at greenwashing their way out of this will find this gamble very risky as the cards unfold.

Shoppers, especially millennials and gen Z, are increasingly drawn to brands committed to ethical causes. As per the 2018 Millennials Pulse Report by Shelton Group, 90 percent of millennials favor brands respecting social and environmental causes.

A McKinsey report titled 'The State of Fashion 2019' states that "Transparency has become an important issue further upstream in the supply chain, with consumers increasingly concerned about issues including fair labor, sustainable resourcing, and the environment. Consumers want to support brands that are doing good globally, with 66 percent willing to pay more for sustainable goods."

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