We asked Dr. Anna Brismar, an expert in the field of sustainability, to help formulate the questions we should be asking.
“In order to develop a more sustainable and circular fashion industry, both producers and consumers need to take action in supporting of the ‘right’ business models and practices by changing our present mindsets, behaviors and priorities. Essentially, three main conditions need to be created by fashion and apparel companies to support more sustainable consumption practices.
Firstly, consumers need to be given the option to access a wider range of more sustainable and circular products and services. Ideally, fashion brands should sell and provide only garments, accessories and shoes that have been produced in a more sustainable and circular manner from an environmental, social and ethical perspective. In practice, this means fashion products that have been designed, sourced, produced, transported and marketed with sustainability and circularity in mind. For example, products should preferably contain only organic, biodegradable, recycled and recyclable materials as opposed to non-biodegradable synthetic fibers and plastic prints. By accessing a wider range of more sustainable and circular products and services, consumers can more easily support the “right” businesses and practices.
Secondly, consumers should be encouraged by sale staff in stores to lease garments, accessories and shoes, or to buy secondhand items, instead of buying newly produced ones. Also, consumers should be given the choice of repair, redesign and custom-made items in stores or online. The option to buy fashion-on-demand is today only available in a few stores in Sweden, but will most likely become a mainstream business offer in the future.
« Ask this: What measures and choices are you taking as a brand to increase your sustainability and circularity performance today and in the future? »
Thirdly, consumers need to be given more insight into the production process and overall supply chain, including office practices. For this purpose, fashion brands should work to create much greater transparency as part of their business. For example, supplier lists with factory names and addresses should be accessible online and in stores. Videos showing real-time conditions in factories and on the fields can be streamed on the walls of stores, etc.
With this in mind, as consumers we can already today influence fashion brands to advance in a more sustainable and circular direction. To summarize, we can ask the following set of questions:
- What specific items do you have in store that are sourced and produced using a more sustainable and circular approach? Are you planning to introduce more garments, accessories or shoes as part of your “more sustainable range”? When are you planning to offer only more sustainable products?
- What items do you have in store that can be leased or bought secondhand? Are you planning to introduce a wider range of leased and secondhand products? How do you encourage customers to choose more sustainable alternatives for buying and leasing? Are you planning to provide repair and redesign services to customers?
- How are you working towards greater transparency across your supply chain? Do you have an updated list of suppliers and factories available on your website or in the store? What measures and choices are you taking as a brand to increase your sustainability and circularity performance today and in the future? What does sustainability and circularity mean to you as a company?”