The fashion industry today accounts for 20% of wastewater and 2-8% of greenhouse gas emissions globally — potentially rising by as much as 50% by 2030. Much of this impact occurs at the raw materials stage in the production process, where supply chains can be highly fragmented, and gathering and assessing data at scale is a challenge.
The partnership announced today aims to address these needs, providing a platform that could be used on a standalone basis or as a complement to existing efforts. At the 2019 Copenhagen Fashion Summit, Google Cloud announced a pilot in collaboration with Stella McCartney to use Google Cloud technology to provide a more comprehensive view into raw materials of clothing manufacturers’ supply chains. That work continues with Stella McCartney, whose team have been pivotal in shaping the concept of the platform and will continue as the first fashion brand to test it. WWF Sweden and long-term partner IKEA created a similar tool in 2018, focused on analyzing the risk and impact of various textiles raw materials.
Google and WWF Sweden will now collaborate on an updated platform leveraging all of these data types, aiming to further increase the accuracy and relevance of raw materials assessments. This new platform will also move beyond cotton and viscose as first announced, to include numerous additional raw materials based on WWF data and knowledge. In addition to Stella McCartney and IKEA, WWF and Google are also in consultation with a large number of other fashion, luxury, denim, and athletic brands and retailers.
Sustainability has been top of mind recently for the fashion industry, though covid-19 has halted initiatives of some companies. A recent report by Boston Consulting Group, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and technology company Higg Co. offers the following pandemic guidance for fashion industry decision-makers:
- Protect critical assets to survive the economic crisis: Safeguard workers, employees, capital, value chain partnerships, channels, and the trust and support of your customers. This moment is an opportunity to remove unnecessary complexity and costs in order to prepare for reinvestment.
- Solve immediate inventory challenges in partnership with suppliers: Leaders will recognize the importance of open dialogue and constructive partnership across the value chain to find shared solutions for protecting worker livelihood and sustaining trust. Cancellation of completed orders will be a measure of last resort, while cancellation without consultation or collaboration will be an unacceptable practice.
- Integrate sustainability throughout business recovery strategies: Sustainability will be an imperative for strong companies after the crisis. Leaders make sustainability central to post-pandemic decision-making while laggards view sustainability as an effort to resume once it’s convenient.
- Accelerate transparency while increasing sustainability ambitions: Companies must take advantage of digitalization, innovative business models, and end-to-end solutions — with transparency playing a central role — to assess and demonstrate positive environmental and social benefits to stakeholders.