The fashion sector is renowned for its considerable environmental impact, and is frequently ranked among the most environmentally damaging industries. The industry faces much criticism for its excessive consumption of resources, including fossil fuels and water, as well as its greenhouse gas emissions and waste production, contributing to pollution that threatens ecosystems and human health. Faced with these challenges, the fashion industry has begun to take action, and many players are developing strategies to reduce their ecological impact.
Against this backdrop, Fashion Green Days was held in June 2020 under the theme "These acts that change everything". The aim of the event was to encourage fashion companies to turn their long-standing promises and commitments into concrete action. At the event, a round table discussion was held on methods for fashion companies to measure their environmental impacts. This discussion revealed a common interest among participants in collaborating on this topic.
This led to the creation, a few months later, of the "Measuring Fashion" working group. This group, made up of six companies sharing their experiences and solutions, was led by Fashion Green Hub. Co-hosted by Sandra Wielfaert, founder of Fashion That Cares, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable fashion consultancy, and Frédéric Fournier, director at Yamana, the group focused on one key question:
"How can the environmental impacts of fashion be measured simply and effectively, and how can they be communicated just as effectively?"
This initiative may be a voluntary decision, an expression of the desire to make a positive contribution, or to align with a broader approach, such as the adoption of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. On the other hand, companies may be driven to act by increasing regulatory pressure. There is a trend towards stricter, more binding legislation, establishing a legislative framework requiring companies to report on their environmental impacts, as exemplified by CSRD, environmental labelling and duty of care.
From our observations within the working group, it seems that the current priority is to measure aspects dictated by legislation, whether directly or indirectly. However, some players, generally more advanced in this field, are going beyond legal requirements and experimenting with new methods, such as the monetization of their environmental externalities.
Companies seek to assess the environmental impact of their products to improve their eco-design approach or prepare for future regulations on environmental labelling. They can also measure the impact of special events, such as a fashion show.
More generally, they can examine the overall impact of their activities to comply with legislation or meet customer requirements. In our working group, we studied a number of tools for carrying out this measurement. Some tools consider only one factor, others several, raising questions such as:
- How can we make all these different tools work together? There isn't yet a complete tool, so we need to find out how to connect them with the company's existing systems.
- How do you choose the right tool? We need to find a method that's adapted to the company and that isn't too complex or costly.
Our group has focused on these issues, meeting monthly to discuss topics such as product life-cycle analysis, measuring greenhouse gas emissions and monetary evaluation of environmental impacts.
For each topic covered, our method includes:
1. An initial context analysis.
2. An inventory based on experiences shared by participating companies and those invited to provide additional perspectives.
3. Identification of tools, with presentations by solution providers and experts.
This whitepaper aims to share our thoughts and conclusions. It is designed to help companies, whatever their level of expertise, to better understand and find solutions to effectively measure their environmental impacts. It offers recommendations and testimonials to facilitate and accelerate this process.