A recent study by McKinsey & Company and NielsenIQ showed that in many categories, there’s a clear connection between consumer spending and products that claim to be environmentally and socially responsible.
It feels like everywhere you look “environmentally sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” “fair trade,” or other designations tap into that. It is of course good news. But how does that actually translate into those brands’ environmental, social, and corporate governance?
In reality the biggest untapped opportunity is to change the way we make, use, and design products to cut our carbon emissions much further and faster. Alongside the climate and biodiversity benefits of moving from a linear to a circular economy, businesses around the world are also discovering the commercial benefits.
Let’s look at the fashion industry for example.
Globally, the annual cost to consumers of throwing out clothing that they could continue to wear is estimated at $460 billion. According to climate action NGO, WRAP, an estimated £140m worth of clothing is sent to UK landfill each year. With sales expected to grow further, accelerated through ever increasing demand for fast fashion, actions for a sustainable textile value chain, including new business models, are indispensable.
Previously we wrote about how Generation Z are embracing the circular economy by turning Charity shops from the likes of Oxfam, Barnardo's, Shelter UK, Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Age UK, Marie Curie UK, Mind, PDSA into the new stars of the local High Street.
But what’s being done by fashion brands? Actually, there’s plenty happening:
Asda teamed up with ‘kilo sale’ event organiser PRELOVED VINTAGE WHOLESALE LTD. The partnership was all about making good quality vintage and pre-owned clothes accessible for George at Asda’s in-store customers.
Primark teamed up with recycling specialists Yellow Octopus. They asked customers to bring their unwanted clothing, textiles, footwear, and bags into any of the 190 local stores in the UK to be re-used or recycled.
Patagonia partnered with Infinited Fiber Company, a textile technology group with a focus on developing premium-quality, biodegradable, regenerated textile fibre Infinna made from recycled Patagonia t-shirts with the capacity to produce 100 million new ones every year.
Decathlon UK has a team of experts that fully refurbishes every 'Second Life' product, so they can then offer them to customers at prices in-store that are even kinder to their pockets.
And there’s even more besides as Archie Finnie from We Are Acuity discovered in his recent shopping trip…
When shopping recently in Westfields Group London, I saw that one of the large spaces between shops and restaurants was filled with rows and rows of clothing, courtesy of We Are Second Life Fashion. What a contrast to the retailers it was surrounded by! After looking in shops like Nike, and Urban Outfitters and seeing t shirts on sale for £40, it almost felt like robbery paying less than that for a bag of around 10-12 items.
Shoppers were handed a big plastic bag upon entry to fill and the weight of this bag when you left calculated the cost. You could also donate any clothing you wanted to which would be continually hung on the shelves the second something else was taken off. It was just my kind of shopping experience and looked to be just as popular with hundreds of others that I saw sifting through the racks.
There has been a huge growth in the demand for pre-loved and ‘vintage’ clothing over the past 5 or so years and it is really great to see all the good it does for the planet by reducing waste. This new wave has meant that a lot of high street retailers have responded by creating new items and selling them as ‘vintage vibe’ or something similar, such as a t shirt with faded images and colours.
Buying clothes second-hand through a kilo sale, from a charity shop or Depop has a lot of benefits. For the consumer, the clothes are normally cheaper than buying them new and doing so saves more waste going to landfill. On the other hand, the popularity of this type of market of course means that prices start to rise. A jacket from Carhartt WIP (Work In Progress) or Dickies®, a VF Company is worth almost just as much at 10 years old with paint stains and scuff marks, as it is new. This demonstrates the emerging divide in second hand and vintage clothes shopping. The kilo sale I was at even showed this with a GOLD section, where items were individually priced and not sold based on weight.
How do Highstreet retailers selling brand newly produced clothes, deal with this market change? An awesome project that is in the works at The North Face, a VF Company (TNF) called The North Face Renewed is a great example. With the tagline ‘Waste less. Explore more’ TNF Renewed takes faulty or subpar textiles, that would otherwise be on their way to landfill, and makes refurbished TNF clothing that is then sold at a lower cost. Plenty of companies do something similar such as Urban Outfitters ‘Urban Renewal’ and Patagonia ‘Worn Wear’. With sustainability becoming an increasingly vital part of operations for businesses in all industries, it’s great to see fashion brands taking action.
Good for our planet doesn’t have to mean bad for business…if you're a brand invested in the circular economy, like us, we would love to hear from you, get in touch with We Are Acuity today for a chat by clicking HERE.
Or if you'd like to read more about Local Marketing have a look at our blog page "Local Thinking': https://www.weareacuity.com/local-thinking-our-blog
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