While the fashion industry grapples with rising inflation and a looming recession, sustainable initiatives can’t afford to fall by the wayside, especially with climate shifts accelerating and customers becoming more vigilant about greenwashing.
It’s clear that the businesses poised to thrive are those who are doubling down on innovation designed to minimize environmental impact. This is where EDITED comes in.
The annual Sustainability EDIT offers a multi-category, data-driven perspective into this complex issue using data and insights from EDITED’s Market Intelligence platform, including analytical and anecdotal research from our retail industry experts. This report includes just some of the vital information EDITED’s clients rely on to make informed decisions.
Read on for key findings and a link to download the full Sustainability EDIT 2022.
Going Back to Basics
With several elements falling under the umbrella of sustainability, retailers need to take a stripped-back approach and focus on improvement across the main areas bearing the most significant brunt on the environment, namely, material extraction, production and transportation and consumption and end of lifecycle. This consists of, but is not limited to: investing in regenerative farming, exploring lower impact shipping methods such as shifting from air to ship or truck and taking recyclability and longevity into account when designing the entire product lifecycle in mind.
The Race for New Materials
EDITED found that 37% of products described as ‘sustainable’ contain some level of recycled polyester. Despite overproduction levels and textile waste, most recycled polyester in the market comes from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, not recycled garments. These can’t be recycled at scale, underscoring the need for new solutions with less reliance on plastics and strains on natural resources. Retailers are diversifying their assortments with other natural alternatives to neutralize inflated cotton prices. Hemp has seen an upswing of 15% YoY, while the use of bamboo in material compositions has grown 5% YoY. Leather has experienced a plant-based overhaul, driven by retailers such as Coperni, Stella McCartney and Ganni investing in animal-free options like grape, mushroom and apple leather to minimize their footprint. The market hasn’t widely adopted bio-based leathers despite these investments - products described as vegan are still dominated by synthetics, further adding to plastic pollution.
Innovation in Every Day Categories
Products that receive significant wear are vital for sustainability upgrades. Offering consumers a more eco-friendly solution to single-use sanitary products, the period pants sector continues to gain momentum, as signified by the 273% increase of products stocked now vs. 2021. Recycled fabrics dominate sustainably-described underwear, with 70%-79% recycled content as the most common. Meanwhile, the demand for sustainable sneakers has never been more apparent, with brands including adidas, Nike and Veja catering to this by offering styles with recycled, vegan and organic components.
Fashion’s lack of regulation has allowed products to be marketed as green with little to no proof. This is finally starting to change meaning that retailers will have to rethink their sustainable strategies to fall in line. Sustainability goals in 2023 and onwards will need to be objective, measurable and aligned with Science-Based Targets. Brands should set a deadline on goals and provide full transparency – regularly updating consumers and taking accountability for all progress and setbacks. If your brand’s current conscious offering is not genuinely sustainable, or its credentials cannot be transparently proven, it should not be used as a benchmark for future goals. Quash any skepticism by reducing the number of new products dropped and accurately detailing fabric compositions and sourcing information.
Pricing Strategies for Future Consumers
The volatility of labor, fabric and energy costs combined with the pandemic and supply chain struggles have increased the average price of sustainable items, which are at a four-year high. EDITED found that compared to 2019, products are $7.17 more expensive in the US (up 19%) and £8.91 in the UK (up 30%). Though inflation is factored in, retailers must also ensure they cover garment workers’ living wages. Additionally, Gen Z consumers are influencing their Gen X parents and Boomer grandparents to shop more sustainably. This cohort will represent 27% of global income upon coming of age, adding to the demand for sustainable goods and impacting pricing as they gain more financial freedom.
Explore Metaverse Technology
Investing in the metaverse can be beneficial to a retailer’s sustainability journey, most of which are participating in carbon offsetting initiatives. However, proving how much carbon has been neutralized is challenging, making blockchain technology optimal as a permanent digital record. Similarly, physical garments with a virtual twin can validate where a product has been made and where its materials come from, increasing traceability and transparency. As digital wearables are becoming more commonplace, they can be subbed in to replace real items in resource-intensive processes such as sampling and shooting digital campaigns. On the flip side, digital pollution and landfills will need to be addressed. Retailers can explore less impactful blockchains to mint NFTs and work with data centers with renewable energy usage.
For more insight into sustainable retail in 2022 and beyond, download our free Sustainability EDIT Retail Analysis here.