Opinion: Luxury Brands Need To Be More Sustainable. But They Need Solutions.


Chimere Cissé | February 07, 2022

A cotton field.Credit: Pixabay.

Sustainability continues to be a priority for consumers the world over. And while bigger brands with deeper pockets are making headway towards meeting their goals, what makes the challenge harder for smaller ones is trying to find the right solution to their problems, says Luxury Society Columnist Chimere Cissé.

In the past few weeks, we have seen a slew of announcements from luxury brands regarding sustainability: Hermès announced that The Science Based Targets initiative approved its emission reduction targets, Tapestry said it had partnered with the Savory Institute to use its verified sourcing solution for regenerative agriculture and Dolce and Gabbana revealed it planned to phase out fur from its collections from this year.

Each announcement has added to the ongoing conversation over the past decade between brands and their customers about how companies can approach sustainability. But for smaller brands, the options can seem endless, particularly when their decisions must also factor in how the price of sustainability can be balanced alongside their profits.

We all know that consumer perceptions of fashion brands are heavily influenced by their efforts to be more environmentally friendly as well as their genuine commitment to sustainability. A study by shopping experience platform Nostco found that 50 percent of customers who want to buy sustainable fashion tend to buy clothing from brands that demonstrate their devotion to it, so it goes without saying how vital it is for companies to consider different ways of production that could be incorporated into fashion and retail.

With 42 percent of millennials and 37 percent of Generation Z claiming that they want to know what goes into their products before they purchase them, increasing supply chain transparency is also vital for brands to consider, particularly if they want to build trust with modern, socially conscious shoppers.

The latest McKinsey Apparel Chief Purchasing Officer Survey published in November recommends companies embraced a “full transformed set of tools, capabilities, and mindsets, across the organisation” in order to fit new customer demands.

RePack works with clients like Blissim to offer reusable packaging.Credit: Courtesy of RePack.

Taking into consideration these goals, here are some solutions I believe can help support fashion and luxury retailers to become sustainable in every aspect of production. These companies are making an impact in the market for being technologically innovative, offering solutions to brands, both new and established, to help improve their green credentials in a meaningful way.

We all know that packaging can contribute to a huge amount of waste for brands and their consumers, so the potential to reduce the ecological footprint of your e-commerce packaging by 80 percent would be one way to make a significant difference. Enter RePack, which offers companies a new type of reusable packaging that customers can send back to a retailer for re-utilisation.

Likewise, Bewearcy, a new fashion trade-in service that introduces a disruptive approach to the traditional circular model. The company allows shoppers to trade in preloved clothes to gain shopping points - points which can later be used to buy clothing from affiliated brand partners.

Alongside United Colors of Benetton and 12 Storeez, last month Bewearcy announced the signing of HUGO (Hugo Boss Group) in Russia and expects to acquire more global brands in the coming months. The service helps international brands implement a circular model and simultaneously increases average revenue by 68 percent and customer retention rate by 77 percent.

And not all changes are meant to happen at the front-end of services. Connecting manufacturers and suppliers of textiles, accessories, and clothing with brands and retailers, services like Sundar and Sourcing Playground enable companies to consider a much quicker and faster digital supply chain. Both platforms allow suppliers to source their materials sustainably and ethically and responsibly with its efficient sustainability tracking tools.

When it comes to materials themselves, brands should consider the work of VitroLabs, a start-up working at the cutting edge of 3D tissue engineering by using stem cell-based technologies.

The company develops a fully scalable tissue engineering platform by combining the latest breakthroughs in stem cell research, and biomaterials. It manufactures real leather by using a few cells from a single cow without the need to raise and slaughter animals, as well as being a better alternative to vegan leather which creates heavy pollution.

I believe sustainable development is one of the most significant issues for the fashion and luxury industry. Applying new methods and catching up with the highly evolving new economy can be challenging, however, there are solutions that not only support brands in their goals but also bring them closer to sustainable transformation that is not only good for business but also good for the planet.

Opinion | Sustainability