20 steps to make your fashion business sustainable

Krista Greenaway

Krista Greenaway

red clothes hanger in the fashion business

Perhaps you’ve been working on becoming the world’s best sustainable fashion business. Perhaps you don’t know where to start but you want to be the world’s best sustainable fashion business.

Irrespective of your position, these 20 steps towards a greener future in fashion will help you achieve those goals in no time.

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You’ll often find departments sitting down in repetitive meetings discussing the next big strategy that will help them streamline their sustainability goals. But change doesn’t need to be this rigid or time-consuming.

Here’s our list of 20 steps you can pick and choose from that will give you quick and effective solutions.

1. Turn off the lights

Turning off the lights is a habit we should all deem second nature. One that counts inside and outside of work. More importantly, the point is to be resourceful. Turn off the lights to avoid wasting energy, buy bamboo toilet rolls instead of paper-based toilet rolls, and use reusable cups to combat waste. Small changes, big differences.

A light bulb growing in soil

2. Work with green energy suppliers 

If you’re working in big scale environments including large offices, warehouses, and factories, work with green energy suppliers. They will help you implement sustainable energy practices within your work environment and ensure you are making effective use of your energy supply.

Their role ensures you are wasting no additional energy which in turn means you are wasting no additional money.

The bulb is one of the highest recommended and largest green energy suppliers in the UK followed closely by other suppliers including Octopus and Green Energy UK. Be sure to check them out for more efficient and sustainable energy supplies.

3. Encourage employees to practice sustainability inside and outside of work

Sustainability really should be at the forefront of everyone’s concerns since we all contribute to climate change in some way or another. It’s up to you as a fashion business to educate your employees, making them aware of how much the fashion industry is contributing to the climate crisis and ways to improve it.

You’ll find that people will be much more willing to practice sustainability both inside and outside of work if they only knew how much they are contributing to climate change. 

potted plants on work desk

4. Create a green workspace to serve as a constant reminder 

Plants have been proven to lower stress levels and boost your mood. Little science lesson for you here: Plants breathe in CO2 waste, then combine CO2 with water and light to produce energy and oxygen. So not only do plants reduce CO2 levels, in turn they keep the oxygen you breathe clean by up to 25%.

Implementing small practices like placing plants within the workspace encourages and reminds us to care for the environment. No one wants to feel responsible for a wilting plant on their desk!

5. Commute less to avoid excess emissions 

CO2 emissions primarily come from business transport, but commuting to and from work just adds to the problem. The average commute time is currently 1 hour, with commute lengths slowly creeping up. Over that hour alone, CO2 emissions from cars are seeping into our atmosphere without a way to control it.

Now it’s about finding balance. Working from home and reducing the length of your work commute will ultimately decrease emissions. If your company offers company car incentives, encourage them to use electric cars that produce zero tailpipe emissions.

young female cycling to work in the fashion business

6. Go public (transport)

Not only should your business encourage working from home where possible. Cutting down on commuting time is also an opportunity to make better use of public transport.

Companies should provide season ticket loans for commuters coming in by train, encourage cycling to work under the cycle to work scheme, and provide electric cars as their choice of a company car. Why increase emissions when there are alternate, greener options? 

7. Offset carbon emissions to counteract pollution 

It’s understandable that with a fashion business there are work areas that are unavoidably going to contribute to climate change. But this can be managed. Purchasing carbon offsets is a way for companies to somewhat undo the damage that is caused by carbon emissions.

Effectively by funding money back into CO2 management schemes. Certified third-party carbon marketplaces will help to both calculate and eradicate your carbon emissions so make sure you pick a reputable one!  

Here are a few to start with:

8. Offer green shipping as your eco-friendly option

Let me tell you something important, 87 billion parcels were shipped worldwide in 2018.

103 billion parcels were shipped worldwide just one year after. 

That’s 3,248 parcels shipped every second.

Shipping consumer goods is affecting our world’s climate now more than ever. With fast delivery becoming somewhat of a competitive advantage for brands, it’s not looking like those numbers will be dropping anytime soon. In fact, they’re increasing. 

Take the pressure off yourself and offer carbon offsets at checkout. Alternatively, you can use the opportunity to market slower shipping as your most green option. Something consumers are wanting to see and learn from respectable fashion businesses. 

9. Reduce transport to lower unhealthy levels of CO2 entering our atmosphere

The global apparel and footwear industry produced 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2018 alone. The issue is that not enough insight is currently given into shipping products to consumers.

While it is inevitable the people will be buying products, and with the new craze for fast home delivery, it can be hard to take a step back.

Start shipping items in bulk, reduce return volumes and streamline your shipping process. The results mean lowering CO2 emissions for the foreseeable.

100% compostable mailers for the fashion business

10. Provide eco-friendly packaging so consumers can recycle easily

Sustainable packaging is now so easy to source that it’s difficult to understand why any fashion business wouldn’t be using it to package their garments. 74% of customers have stated they are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging and 88% asked that businesses make recycling easier for them.

Providing recyclable and reusable packaging means half the battle to start recycling is won for consumers. With such large percentages of people actively recycling, the result could mean the total collapse of the mountains of waste that currently clog our landfills.

11. Avoid excess packaging to decrease waste

Recycling packaging is one thing but creating unnecessary waste is another. It’s all too familiar the feeling of opening up a package that is filled with layers and layers of packaging materials we have no use for. The majority of these materials end up in our bins without a second thought.

But landfill waste is already a huge issue that doesn’t need to be made worse by businesses shipping items in boxes that are too large or just filled with unnecessary materials. 62% of consumers have said they would perceive a retailer more positively if they made a conscious effort to not overuse packaging and protective materials for online orders.

So taking some time to streamline your packing process could pay off in the long run.

courrier delivering package for eco friendly fashion business

12. Work with green shipping providers

Packaging is just one, a small part of the shipping process. But an important one at that. You can work with green shipping providers that can help you not only with packaging but will also oversee other parts of the shipping process.

The results mean a better packaging process, better order fulfillment, and better quality control. This not only takes the pressure off you but it also helps you to build a sustainably functioning supply chain.

 

13. Sell sustainable products

There are two ways to look at this one. Either design and sell sustainable products or think of creative ways that you can make your current products more sustainable.

In most fashion businesses it isn’t difficult to source sustainable materials, or even work with Fairtrade manufacturers that mean you are paying for fair and sustainable labor. If you’ve previously sold products that aren’t eco-friendly, there’s always room to change and plenty of resources to help you with that. 

14. Work alongside other sustainable brands that can help you achieve your mission

You’re not alone in the fight against climate change. There are plenty of brands out there that share the same goals and missions as you do. We started One Tribe with the intention of helping brands help us to save the rainforests.

With every fashion purchase, you and your consumers contribute to protecting not just Amazonian land, but the indigenous tribes that live upon them. Other great brands can offer you similar services, so pick one that fits your brand the best. 

Recycled fashion range

15. Tell your story 

Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Consumers like to see your business has a human side- something they can truly relate to. Speaking to your consumers on a personal level gives them insight into your journey towards becoming a sustainable fashion business. It also allows them to understand your mission better and offers you the chance to inspire people to get involved with the sustainability movement. 

16. Communicate effectively

Large and small companies have teams of effective communicators. So use it! Start communicating your sustainability goals with your audience clearly and transparently. Newsletters, advertising, and social media are all useful tools to help you get your sustainability message across to eco-conscious consumers.

Effective marketing will not only help increase your engagement with consumers, but it will also promote your brand in a positive light, and build life-long relationships. 

17. Give yourself credit where credit is due

Although it might seem like many brands have been sustainable from the get-go, we and our consumers should understand that this is something that develops over time. Being a sustainable fashion business is something worth celebrating. That means every milestone (no matter the size) should be celebrated and shared.

sustainability is more than just a trend in fashion graphic

18. Don’t forget the big picture

Don’t forget about being sustainable. While it might seem obvious, we all know it can be difficult to balance convenience with sustainability.

At the end of the day if you want to be a sustainable fashion business you have to maintain sustainability as one of your core values. Forgetting the bigger picture could result in some sloppy and unwanted mistakes. One’s that your consumer base might not be so forgiving about. 

New York Beach clean up eco friendly plastic cups

19. Get involved with volunteer projects and events centered around sustainability 

Although most people have the drive to be sustainable it often gets put on the back burner behind other things in life that we deem of higher priority. Allow yourself some extra time to actually be sustainable. Your fashion business can organize selected volunteer days with a sustainably focused cause for employees to get involved in.

An educational day filled with proactively helping the environment is a chance they’ll thank you for. Alternatively, you can focus on sustainable pro bono work which offers up the chance to effectively learn more on the topic of sustainability as a whole.  Either way, it’s an excuse to get out and have some fun with sustainability.

20. Make sustainability fun

To follow up, don’t stress, just have fun. Like most things, becoming a sustainable fashion business is a journey and not always an easy one. While there is increasing pressure from consumers, becoming a sustainable business takes time. Use that time to have some fun with sustainability.

Host Meatless Mondays, conduct a “make your own sustainable item” workshop, or host events with a sustainability theme.

innovative fashion show 2018 fashion revolution week

Why being a sustainable fashion business is important

Sustainability is what consumers are crying out for from fashion brands. Yet despite these pleas, businesses are still overlooking implementing sustainable practices, deeming it simply ‘too much effort’. 

We get it, being green isn’t easy. We can all understand human consumerist nature to a degree, but at the end of the day, our conscience wins over any form of convenience if it means protecting our natural world.

Consumers don’t want to choose between sustainability and convenience- they simply want businesses to help them make sustainable choices.

To put it into perspective, 81% of consumers picture themselves as eco-friendly but only 50% say they buy products from brands that try to be eco-friendly. There are other statistics that reflect these behavioral patterns and it’s simply due to the fight between our wants and our needs.

People want to be sustainable. The world is focused on fulfilling our needs, which include convenience, ease, and simplicity. 

The solution?

Be a fashion business that makes being sustainable convenient, easy, and simple. Put sustainability at the forefront of your efforts, and soon sustainability will become second nature. Not only for your businesses but for your eco-conscious consumers too.  

And if you need support, to help your customers shop more sustainably, and grow your business, a climate action platform will be happy to do so. 

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