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6 Sustainability Challenges for 2022

The fashion industry today faces contextual, legal, and social pressures that are forcing an imminent paradigm shift. Prepare yourself and take note of these 6 challenges for 2022.

In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the effects of the growth economic model at all costs on people and the environment. Gradually, the term "sustainability" became part of everyday life in the fashion industry and a trend of the moment. Due to industrial (supply chain), societal, or regulatory (legislative) pressure, companies are increasingly finding it difficult to capture key environmental, social, and ethical management issues.

For the more skeptical, we'll explain why investing in sustainability pays off in the long run, not only in terms of environmental, social, and ethical responsibility but also in terms of economic efficiency and business competitiveness:

  • Supply chain crisis: The rise in energy and raw material prices, the bad publicity of production in Asian countries, and the current situation of world transport, added to the fragmentation of the supply chain itself, have led to a revolution in the textile sector’s sourcing map which has accelerated and forced the reorganization process of the supply structure.

  • The future of legislation: In recent years, European legislation has moved in the direction of a systemic shift towards circularity and sustainability, seeking to reduce environmental and social impacts as much as possible while maintaining economic and social benefits.

  • Consumers, the driving force: Consumers demand responsibility, punish a lack of transparency, and force brands to be transparent and produce responsibly. 66% of millennials and 79% of Generation Z think brands are not honest enough about their environmental responsibility. The percentage rises to 69% and 84%, respectively, when it comes to the treatment of factory workers (Futerra 2019 with the Consumer Goods Forum).

  • Climate crisis: Climate change and its effects, exponential population growth and the condition of vulnerability in which many communities live, form a complex global problem. According to UN estimates, by 2050 the world’s population will need the natural resources of three planets to maintain its current lifestyle. In other words, continuing as normal is not an option.

The evolution towards business sustainability

It is clear that we are facing a context in which the accelerated climate and social crisis are unforgiving. However, the fashion industry’s efforts to transform its production and consumption model are not enough. As one of the world’s most important industrial drivers, the textile sector must not only recognize its responsibility to adopt ethical and responsible practices but must also see it as a driver of its own business and growth. Business sustainability is far from being a whim or a passing trend. The modern world requires us to think systematically, take responsibility for our actions, and innovate when creating and doing business.

Looking ahead to 2022, fashion companies face 6 key challenges, take note!

  1. Adopting a strong sustainability strategy: Emerging markets are starting to lead the way on ESG issues. Thousands of companies are well aware that if they want to be competitive they must incorporate sustainable practices in their production activities. In this sense, sustainability requires a change of dialogue on fundamental principles, a change that must come from the heart of the brand by adopting a solid strategy, not only to improve its environmental, social and ethical performance but also to improve its competitiveness.

  2. Committing to integrative sustainability: Approaching sustainability from an integral vision, understanding the complexity of the concept as well as its multiple environmental, social, and economic dimensions with the aim of minimizing the impact of each of its associated processes, improving conditions for all participants in the life cycle and ensuring the profitability of the product itself.

  3. Investing in a transparent supply chain: Obtaining full traceability is crucial in order to understand the social and environmental impact of business practices and products. In the long term, it enables brands to identify risks and challenges to increase efficiency, while building strong and trusting relationships with suppliers and customers.

  4. Decoupling fashion profitability from sales volume: The growing number of sustainability efforts is meaningless if changes in production practices are not accompanied by reductions in the production volume. In this sense, decoupling the profitability of fashion from the volume of sales of new products is urgently needed if a sustainable, ethical and responsible production and consumption model is to be achieved.

  5. Driving change towards a circular model: Circularity implies a cross-cutting change in the entire value chain and thus a new conceptualization of the product itself. A good circularity strategy should focus on restoring the garment to the respect it traditionally received, focusing on aspects such as durability, recyclability, repair and reuse, eco-design, and research.

  6. Impact measurement: Very soon, including triple bottom line metrics will not only be a matter of values and will, but also an obligation because the market and the law demand it, and will continue to demand more and more.

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