Responsible fashion: the need of the hour

By: | Published: April 24, 2018 12:50 AM

The apparel industry is expected to reach approximately $223 billion by 2021 in india.

apparel industry, sustainable products, Myntra Jabong, india, sustainable clothing,  fashion retailers, india, recycled fabricsSupply chain plays a critical role in the apparel and textile industry, owing to its complex and intricate nature, and geographical spread.

Chaitanya Kalia

The apparel industry is expected to reach approximately $223 billion by 2021 in india. However, to gain a competitive edge, organisations need to follow the sustainability approach to differentiate themselves and promote growth. Sustainability is no longer an option for global organisations. Consumers, especially millennials, are emphasising on the quality of product and sustainable manufacturing is considered as a new method for measuring quality. Awareness about climatic and social changes is leading to changing preferences for consumers. In order to make brand sustainability resonate better with consumers, organisations need to accentuate points which consumers can easily relate to.

Supply chain plays a critical role in the apparel and textile industry, owing to its complex and intricate nature, and geographical spread. Higher transparency also means better supply chain mapping, traceability and better risk mitigation measures. Demand for sustainable clothing also means sustainable supply chains. This leads to an improved environment and social performances, which are otherwise currently neglected in a majority of supplier units.

In developed countries, consumer awareness on sustainable clothing is higher now. It is necessary for organisations to understand customers’ preferences during the time of purchase. Concepts such as circular economy are creating benchmarks in the apparel sector and meeting consumer demands.

It also includes use of natural fibres, zero hazardous chemicals, recycled fabrics, sustainably grown cotton, diversity and inclusiveness at the workplace, transparency, no human rights abuses and full rights advocacy, digitisation (providing convenience through digital networks), welfare programmes for labourers and secondary and tertiary supply chains.

Communication and enhancing customer awareness on sustainable products not only enables improved decision-making but also engages customers in the brand’s sustainability dialogue. Further, this collaborative approach provides consumers a sense of belonging to the entire sustainability agenda. Sustainability reports or non-financial disclosures are a good medium for publicly communicating sustainability performance and increasing transparency.

Apart from this, programmes such as the take-back programme, wherein old clothes are collected back at retail outlets and then used for charity or recycling, stand out as popular initiatives. Product labelling and social media campaigns with information across the entire life cycle of the garment are activities that brands and businesses are exploring as a means of connecting with consumers.

The huge young adult consumer base in India, rising disposable incomes and growth in the middle-income segment make India a ‘favourable market’ for fashion retailers. According to a Myntra Jabong report, India is expected to be the world’s largest market for sustainable products by 2030. In addition, India is also an exporters’ hub for global fashion, making it a key player in the value chain. There are conscious millennials who would participate in an ecological future. Global brands and national consumers are key drivers for Indian companies to adopt sustainable practices in their design and manufacturing process.

The author is partner, leader, climate change and sustainability services, EY India

(With inputs from Sayooj Thekkevariath, senior manager, EY India)

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