In this post, we’ll start discussing sustainability in strictly practical terms. As we’ve seen in the first chapter about the ‘actionability’ of sustainable fashion, so much can be done to lighten the environmental impact of your production pipeline. With so much choice available the only thing you are required to do is to act.
Let’s look at some numbers. As we proceed through the material we’ll try to make the issues and opportunities connected to fashion sustainability as tangible as possible.
Many of the issues connected to fashion sustainability in a way are connected to the relevance of the fashion industry to the world economy, and at the same time at the complete lack of traceability of its supply chain. Maybe, upcoming technologies, such as blockchain will help to solve this problem. This is why to study fashion sustainability it is necessary to be informed about fashion business too. Don’t worry, we have you covered, as in this post you can easily understand the basic principles of the fashion industry by analyzing the fashion value chain and the fashion pipeline.
The choices you will need to make need to be aligned with the values you choose to celebrate with your brand and make sustainability a matter of nuances. Whenever you pick a sustainability strategy you have to make compromises. For instance, extending products’ lifecycle by creating a buyback program will positively impact your garments’ end-of-life disposal, but will also induce other carbon-related phenomena by extending the environmental cost of shipping linked to extended product transportation.
This is why the matter of sustainability is not whether or not to be sustainable, it’s more a matter of how to be sustainable. Looking at the bright side, companies who are able to effectively integrate a sound sustainability strategy in their business, ideally associating it to some of the most intimate meanings of your brand.
The importance of sustainable branding cannot be underestimated, considering that through the brand a fashion firm is capable of influencing behaviour and change customers’ perceptions.
It’s the brand’s job to find ways to inform the customer and use sustainability to create a match between the firm’s production decisions and customers’ expectations. Finding the right balance is hard, and this is why sustainability should be pursued through self-reflection and ambition.
In this chapter, we are going to see how a fashion company can pursue a self-aware sustainability strategy in order to make those environmentally sensitive choices that can both benefit the environment, the firm’s brand equity and its overall profitability.
This is to help you get started in answering a fundamental question: what can I do? There’s so much that can be done, that – again – the problem is simply picking a battle to fight. In order to simplify this matter, we can break down sustainability initiatives in 4 categories of actions:
In many cases concerning luxury brands, the quality of the manufacturing is of primary importance. This is why the Country of Origin Effect is a prominent element of a marketing plan. We discuss this topic in more detail in this post: The Importance of the Country of Origin Effect.
As we’ve seen, solving the issue of sustainability is a complex matter, which could at first seem overwhelming. On the other hand, by following a step-by-step approach we can both clarify where to act and how to act for the benefit of all of our firm’s stakeholders.
With no intent to oversimplify a complex matter, there are some -relatively- easy steps that your company can pursue in order to identify which goals you should focus on as you develop your brand’s sustainable strategy.
We focus on the link between the intangible growth in value of your brand to the support of sustainability practices, not to overemphasize the branding opportunities that green economies suggest, but to show that despite the high costs involved in putting a company under such (potentially) radical change processes, there is always a business case for environmental awareness.
Now that we’ve understood the challenges that this process entails it’s time for some inspiration in the next paragraph we’ll look at how Lacoste was able to create a profound sense of environmental awareness with a brilliant communication campaign.
Lacoste is such a popular fashion company, that its brand is now considered almost a synonym of a polo shirt. As seen in the video above, the French company pursued an environmental awareness campaign by creating a limited edition collection of garments representing a selection of animals risking extinction.
Even if this is an example which leverages mostly on the impact of fashion communication, it’s able to show that there are countless ways in which a brand can start its sustainability journey by thinking creatively about any core or non-core element of their company. In this case, for instance, Lacoste was able to show that it could part from its globally recognisable logo to show that for the sake of nature, it could do without its most valuable asset.
As we’ve seen, there is a lot that can be done to lighten the carbon footprint and overall environmental impact of your company. As for any entrepreneurial challenge, addressing the sustainability needs of a more aware consumer society is a long journey which requires an understanding of the human, environmental and business problems connected to the transition of our economy to a greener economy.
Don’t feel discouraged, fashion is a creative industry and as we’ve seen from some of the examples made in this post, creativity can go a long way to transform a crisis into an opportunity.
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