Following sustainability practices is good for the environment, true. But, fashion brands are discovering that it is equally good for their business.
According to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report from the Global Fashion Agenda and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), investing in resource efficiency, secure work environments and sustainable materials can improve a company’s EBITA margin by up to 1% to 2% points by 2030. “The impact goes beyond brand building and risk management. Sustainability can actually increase profitability for fashion companies,” said Sebastian Boger, a partner at BCG.
While there is no specific definition for sustainable fashion, it can be summed as a practice of creating clothing that last longer, using eco-friendly resources. This reduces the overall impact on the environment, so that customers do not need to discard clothing regularly and also the materials used are made from recyclable or environment-friendly products.
Sustainability is merely about using organic cotton or recycled paper for packaging. Instead, it stretches to embracing a holistic process. Right from fabric selection, designing it to minimize wastage, to creating a humane working environment for employees to how the end product reaches the buyer.
For the consumer, sustainability is about what encourages them to buy, the philosophies they support through their purchases, understanding the product’s lineage, etc., – or brand provenance in other words. Global View Research pegs the global eco-fibers market at around $93.27 billion. According to a Myntra – Jabong Report, India is expected to be the world’s largest market for sustainable products by 2030. A growing young adult consumer base, rising disposable income and growth in the middle-income segment make India a “favourable market” for fashion retailers.
Sharing his opinion about sustainable fashion, Mohit Dhanjal, Business Head-Shirting (B2C), Raymond Ltd said, “Sustainable fashion is a part of the growing design philosophy and movement towards environmental and social sustainability. The goal is to create a system that can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and positive social responsibility. It is driven by 3R’s of the environment –Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.”
Manjula Gandhi, Chief Product Officer, Numero Uno pointed out that sustainability in the fashion industry is a fairly new concept in India, and sustainable and ethical fashion vary by a slight degree. However, due to increasing awareness and consciousness about human impact on the environment and the importance of maintaining ecological balance for a better future, sustainability as a concept is trickling down into our way of living. It is a more accepted concept in matured global markets, Gandhi added.
TIME TO GO ORGANIC
Today, consumers recognize the value of sustainability and appreciate the fact that eco-friendly clothing are also good for their skin. Top brands have decided to go organic offer, a wide range of apparel that is trendy and chic at the same time as well as ethnic and elegant.
In order to ensure that sustainable products sell better than or as well as regular apparel brands today are trying to create meaningful and responsible clothing, which are not just sustainable but also aesthetic and utilitarian, for their consumers.
Every brand has its own reason to go organic and they are creating an emotional connect with customers to inspire them to buy their products. They are combining technology in creating new raw material and building eco-friendly production process to transform the look of sustainable fashion from boring to stylish and desirable.
Dr. Naresh Tyagi, Chief Sustainability Officer at Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited (ABFRL) said, “In India, we have taken the lead in the apparel sector in embracing sustainability. This started off in 2012-13 through the ReEarth vision and we have embedded it into our operations and extended it to our supply chain. We transformed our sustainability approach from legal compliance to mission-based approach.”
On the challenge of price mapping, so that sustainable products don’t command an unrealistic premium as compared to regular wear, Gandhi said that as a responsible denim brand they always endeavour to make the production processes eco-friendly and invest in laundry technology that makes their products sustainable to a large extent. “Adopting new technology comes at a huge price and therefore, in order to keep their products affordable, they balance it out by sourcing effectively and producing efficiently in-house, without compromising the quality, functionality or aesthetics,” he stated.
Dhanjal however pointed out that consumers in developed economies are willing to pay a premium for sustainable and eco-friendly products, though India being a value-conscious consumption market, such products without the right value proposition will not find many takers and that is a challenge that all we need to address.
As customers, especially the youth, lay emphasis on sustainability as a yardstick while shopping, brands are adopting it to gain a competitive edge and differentiate themselves from the crowd.