The term “sustainability” is often discussed across boardrooms and championed in marketing campaigns. But it’s not just a buzzword. There are serious implications—and advantages—to explore, particularly in the fashion industry where the constant churn of “must-have” styles has become the norm. But a tipping point is here — one that points to sustainable fashion supported by real bottom-line results.
Sizing Up Fashion Sustainability
What exactly does sustainable fashion mean? According to Forbes, “True sustainability should ensure that the creation process is environmentally and socially sound, from materials to manufacturing all the way to workers’ conditions and fair pay.”
A recent webinar by our partner Salsify described three main drivers for sustainable fashion:
- Business and compliance implications
A commitment to sustainability will help your fashion brand compete in a competitive market. After all, your competitors are already working towards it, and you don’t want your brand to fall behind. But it goes deeper than that. Many governments have created sustainability-related legislation. For example, proposed laws in New York would require large companies that sell in the state to map their supply chains and develop plans to minimize their environmental impact. If you don’t follow these regulations, you could face hefty fines and other punishments.
- Meeting consumer preferences
On a related note, your customers want your fashion brand to become more sustainable. In Salsify’s webinar, they shared that 20% of consumers report reviewing a company’s sustainability practices before making a purchase decision. And 70% of urban and Gen Z shoppers say that a company’s actions on climate influence their purchases “very much” or “quite a bit.” If you don’t prioritize sustainability, consumers may not support your brand.
Finally, committing to sustainability is simply the right thing to do. For example, poor-quality clothes end up in landfills, which has a negative impact on the local environment. Those that don’t are often shipped to second-hand markets at a rate and volume that recipients can’t handle, which causes even more pollution. While opinions vary on certain issues, we should all be able to agree that action is needed to ensure that fashion is ethically made and environmentally friendly.
Ways to Support and Promote Sustainable Fashion
While most fashion companies acknowledge the significance of sustainability, the term remains too vague. To drive progress, sustainable fashion must be measurable and tied to tangible results. Here are several tips to sharpen your focus on sustainable fashion for customers, suppliers, investors, and other stakeholders.
1.) Develop and share your sustainability story
Start by evaluating your existing brand messages. Wherever your brand communicates, ensure it strongly conveys your dedication to sustainability and mirrors your company’s values. Keep it simple and actionable, clarifying why sustainability matters for your business and detailing your concrete steps.
A page or section on your website dedicated to sustainability is table stakes. But consider showcasing your values across diverse channels: in-store displays, ads, and earnings reports. Think about your executives’ role: can they contribute on podcasts, LinkedIn, or in articles to discuss your company’s sustainable goals?
Finally, always be authentic. Even if your efforts are modest, be open about them to foster trust and invite accountability.
2.) Ensure your partners are aligned with your strategy
When it comes to sustainability, you’ll need to present a united front. This means working with partners who share your strategy. For instance, if sustainable packaging is a priority, select suppliers that are aligned with this approach. Evaluate whether it’s easy for your suppliers to onboard product details or participate in your sustainability-related activities. Also, consider if you have enough transparency and insights to negotiate terms or manage third-party compliance.
3.) Measure and track your progress
Authenticity also involves monitoring and sharing your progress. Even if you haven’t fully achieved your goals, be open about your journey. This transparency relies on data. As you shape your sustainability strategies, think about meaningful metrics, accurate data collection methods, and how best to present this information to customers and stakeholders on a regular basis.
4.) Infuse sustainability into the product experience
Consider how sustainability seamlessly integrates wherever shoppers engage with your brand. This involves ensuring consistent product content and messaging across various channels, including your site, partner sites, physical stores, catalogs, and marketplaces.
So, what do fashion shoppers really want? The survey by eMarketer asked consumers about ways retailers can make digital fashion shopping more sustainable. The second most popular response—after discounts, of course—was having more detailed and accurate information about clothing and fashion products. This underlines the importance of robust product content from the customer’s viewpoint—clear imagery and descriptions that are readily available before purchase can cut down on the need for returns.
The next highly favored option was presenting clear information, specifically sustainability details that are easily understandable. And, finally, the survey’s third response pointed towards automatically recommending more sustainable and environmentally friendly clothing options to shoppers. This indicates a potential for innovative product recommendations—understanding a customer’s preference for sustainability and guiding them towards more eco-friendly alternatives.
In essence, having strong product content is crucial, as is the ability to easily update sustainability-related data at scale.
5.) Align your sustainability and data strategies
Aligning your sustainability strategy with your data strategy is pivotal. All the practices discussed above rely on well-organized product data. By harnessing the power of data, fashion brands can navigate the complex balance between consumer expectations, sustainability goals, and the ever-evolving pace of the fashion industry.
With solid data in hand, you’ll be equipped to:
- Substantiate your claims related to sustainability
- Convey the right information to your customers
- Collect the necessary data from your suppliers
- Make confident decisions about manufacturing and logistics
- Gain data transparency for compliance and reporting
Whether your goals include achieving net-zero emissions, recycling, reducing carbon footprint, minimizing water usage, or other sustainability targets, reliable data is your foundation for tracking progress and back up your claims.
Data Management Designed for Fashion Brands
Developing a solid fashion sustainability strategy can’t be delayed. Let us help you prepare the foundation of data you need to support and promote your goals.
When it comes to fashion data management, Amplifi and Salsify are your perfect match. We’ve designed successful data programs for some of the world’s leading fashion brands in athleisure, outdoor/hiking, apparel essentials, work wear, and beyond. Together, we know the data needs of the fashion industry best.
Want to learn more?
We’ve compiled some of our recent fashion data insights into a new guide, available for download here.