Switching to renewable energy sources: Large fashion companies have set ambitious goals to source 100% renewable electricity for manufacturing facilities and reduce carbon emissions. Adidas aims for all its owned/operated operations to run on renewable electricity by 2025. Puma, Nike, Patagonia already source most electricity needs from solar, wind farms. Brands are also investing in on-site solar panels and renewable energy credits to power factories and offices with clean energy.
Promoting circular economy principles: Extended producer responsibility, design for disassembly, optimizing for recyclability are new principles more fashion brands are following. Fast fashion retailers H&M, Zara have launched garment rental and resale platforms to promote circularity. Brands work on making garments that can undergo multiple life-cycles by developing techniques to separate fibers after use for new spinning. Technical textiles major Schoeller launched a Detox programme to recover synthetic fibers from textile waste stream.
Sustainable packaging and shipping: Simple, minimal, recyclable and reusable packaging materials are preferred over multilayer plastics which end up in landfills. Many brands have cut out plastic bags and switched to recyclable paper, biodegradable materials or no packaging at all. Expedited shipping methods contributing to higher emissions are replaced by less polluting options where possible. Outdoor brand Patagonia plants one tree for every order packaged to offset emissions.
Transparency through robust supply chain monitoring: Major brands publish detailed supplier lists, conduct frequent audits and work directly with key factories to improve social and environmental performance over time. Tools like Higg Index are helping standardize disclosure of supply chain impacts. Third party certifications like Bluesign, Fair Trade, etc also improve traceability. Companies submit to annual impact reports and information is made publicly available to enable accountability.
Switching to more sustainable fabrics, redefining business models around the circular economy principles, minimizing materials and improving supply chain monitoring are some of the key sustainable strategies major fashion companies have started implementing in a big way. While the transition takes time due to the scale of operations, these initiatives if implemented systematically can go a long way in making the industry more environmentally responsible and future-proof. Stakeholder pressure and consumer demand is also compelling more brands to adopt sustainable best practices for long term business viability.
Use of organic and sustainable materials: Many fashion brands have started using organic cotton, recycled polyester, bamboo, Tencel/Lyocell fabrics which are produced from sustainably managed forests and plant based materials. Adidas, Puma, Nike, Patagonia etc are widely using recycled polyester made from plastic bottles in their clothing range. Adidas also has a goal that by 2024, 50% of the polyester used in its products will be recycled. Brands like EILEEN FISHER are pioneers in using pre-consumer recycled fabrics and fibers like recycled nylon in their clothing line. Use of organic cotton helps reduce water consumption, pesticide use and preserves biodiversity compared to conventional cotton farming.
Closing the loop – Focus on recycling and reuse: Several brands have launched take-back and recycling programs to keep clothes in use for longer and divert waste from landfills. H&M launched its garment collecting program in 2013 which allows customers to bring back any item of clothing, from any brand, of any condition in stores to be recycled. The recycled materials are then used to make new clothing items. Urban Outfitters also launched a pants recycling program in 2021 where customers can send back any pair of old pants which will be cut up and remixed into new fibers. Adidas launched its first shoe made entirely from recycled materials called the Adidas Futurecraft.Loop which can be remolded and remade infinitely without quality loss.
Prioritizing minimal waste production: Many brands are redesigning their manufacturing and supply chain processes to minimize waste production right from the raw material sourcing and garment construction stage. Techniques like pattern engineering, minimized fabric cutting, reuse of fabric scraps helps reduce waste from factories. Levi’s Waste
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