The fashion industry is responsible for a significant portion of carbon emissions and generates a large amount of textile waste, leading to a growing need for sustainable fashion...
Today's disruptions in the market are increasingly focusing on supply chains. When ranking global supply chains, fashion and textiles fall into the category of more vulnerable groups because it is one of the most globalized supply chains in any industry worldwide.
The life cycle of fabric begins in cotton fields, or in today's modern age, even in laboratories. Then comes processing, followed by the production of clothing items. Considering costs as a critical factor in the fashion industry, the most common choice is to carry out shows in developing economies with low wages. Design can be created anywhere, and then everything needs to reach consumers who are scattered all over the world. Considering all these stages, it is clear that not all of them have a positive impact on the environment. Is sustainable fashion needed in the world? This is a question that is being asked repeatedly. We realize that sustainability is especially important in the fashion industry, which is one of the three largest polluting sectors.
More than 15 kilograms of textile waste per person in Europe is generated annually. Clothing and household textiles are the largest sources of textile waste, accounting for about 85% of the total waste.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry uses enough water every year to meet the needs of five million people. Moreover, 2,700 litres of water produce one cotton t-shirt, equivalent to an individual's water consumption for over three years. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime transportation combined. Trends indicate that these negative impacts are steadily increasing, with potentially unfavorable outcomes in the future. On the other hand, in Europe, more than 15 kilograms of textile waste per person is generated annually. Clothing and household textiles are the largest sources of textile waste, accounting for about 85% of the total waste.
Sustainable fashion brands use materials made from natural or recycled fabrics that require minimal or even no chemical treatment, which automatically means less water and energy consumption.
A sustainable new industry, which turns waste into value, could be created through significant transformation. Introducing a circular economy into the textile industry and setting a strategy focused on the three main pillars of sustainability - environment, society, and governance (ESG) - could potentially lead to the creation of a new valuable raw material. All of this allows for increased clothing production and additional value creation throughout the supply chain. In addition to direct economic benefits, increasing textile recycling offers several environmental and social benefits. For example, it could create around 15,000 new jobs and reduce CO2 emissions by approximately four million tons, equivalent to the cumulative emissions of a country slightly larger than Serbia.
The textile industry needs a circular business model that could change consumers' attitudes toward goods, eliminate clothing waste, and promote better business results.
Sustainable fashion brands use materials made from natural or recycled fabrics that require minimal or even no chemical treatment, which automatically means less water and energy consumption. Some materials, such as linen, hemp, and organic cotton, are biodegradable. However, sustainability is not just about materials. It is about changing the way we think, design, produce, communicate, wear, and enjoy fashion.
An example of an exciting experiment in sustainability in this industry is the chemical release mechanism. Cotton materials have been developed that absorb carbon dioxide when heated. One restaurant in Stockholm has an indoor greenhouse where they grow salads and herbs. During the day, waiters use these shirts as uniforms, and at night, they put them in the greenhouse, heat them, and release carbon dioxide, which the plants use in photosynthesis. The uniforms are returned in the morning, and the cycle repeats.
Can we anticipate a sustainability revolution in textiles and the fashion industry?
Existing activities focused on sustainability or partial aspects of the circular economy should be supplemented with a coherent global approach. Such an approach would bring together key players in the industry as well as other stakeholders who support this goal to launch revolutionary projects throughout the value chain and strengthen complementary initiatives. Definitely, the textile industry needs a circular business model that could change consumers' attitudes toward goods, eliminate clothing waste, and promote better business results. The wide adoption of common industry practices could create momentum toward a new textile industry because shared supply chains mean that this change cannot be initiated by just one brand. In the words of Duško Radović, "The early bird gets the worm." Pioneering companies in the sustainable trend that are also initiators of green initiatives create a strong global brand image, become the new standard in the market, and increasingly attract even traditional investors.