A GlobalData report conducted in January revealed that ‘sustainability’ was the most important theme for businesses in 2020. The company found that public anger over the lack of action on climate change and corruption gave the sustainability discussions momentum, leaving businesses unable to continue ignoring the need for sustainability.
The retail industry is no exception to this, especially fashion retail where fast fashion and linear business models are damaging the environment. However, with sustainability being such a huge topic, the fight for a circular economy in fashion has only been increasingly gaining traction.
With the demand for sustainability growing, especially in the fashion sector, retailers need to adapt to a different business model that incorporates circular fashion and sustainability. Retail Insight Network looks into what retailers should be doing to promote a circular economy, not only to help the environment but also to stay relevant in a changing retail landscape which values ethics over convenience.
What is circular fashion and how does it protect the environment?
UK-based charity The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, which works with businesses to help work towards a circular economy, defines circular economy as an “aim to redefine growth” by “decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system.” This also entails transitioning to renewable energy sources and regenerating the natural system.
In circular fashion, the same idea applies: to stop fashion being disposable and, therefore, creating waste and pollution. The way that the fashion industry can keep sustainable is to make efforts to replace fast fashion and linear fashion with circular alternatives.
How are fast fashion and linear fashion damaging the environment?
Fast fashion is one of the most-used retail models, especially on the UK high street. Labour costs are kept low to produce clothes at a higher rate, to last less time, and using cheaper – non-recyclable – materials. Because of the speed clothes are produced, wash tests and wearer trials are not usually conducted, meaning decreased clothing quality.
Clothes produced through fast fashion promote a “wear once” attitude, with new stocks constantly being introduced. Through this, fast fashion contributes to linear fashion: the lifecycle of clothing in which fashion is made, bought, and then disposed of after little wear.