Produce locally, stop waste, preserve the planet and jobs
61% of French people take sustainable development criteria into account in their purchases(1)Responsible business is a major new challenge for retail players. One of the most polluting and criticized industries in the sector is fashion. The carbon footprint of the textile industry is estimated at 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2(2). With its frenetic pace of production, fast fashion aggravates the consequences of fashion on the environment. It appeals to consumers looking for new products in stores and online, all year round. They take advantage of increasingly attractive rates and promotions. More than 100 billion “disposable” garments are sold worldwide each year(3). Between overconsumption, relocation and polluting manufacturing processes, the sector must rethink itself to meet new environmental challenges. Retailers have the power to change things by becoming players in French reindustrialization and by supporting consumers towards ethical fashion.
Environmental impact of retail: a change of model is needed
In recent years, reasoned and responsible local commerce has been abandoned in favor of mass retail. Today, more and more voices are rising up against irresponsible consumption. Customers demand production that respects people and the environment and greater equity in the distribution of wealth. The short circuit and the strengthening of the direct link with the producers have become obligatory passages to attract consumers(4).
The retail industry generates millions of jobs, but its social cost is heavy. To produce ever cheaper, some brands are turning to countries where labor is cheap. In addition to low wages and often non-existent social minima, workers suffer daily from harsh and dangerous working conditions.
Consumers are increasingly critical of retailers affected by these practices. The Covid-19 health crisis has also been there: product shortages, periods of confinement… Consumers have taken a step back from overconsumption. They have rethought their shopping habits and shown a deep desire to get back to basics. Consume less, but better: artisanal production, local shops, organic products, recycling. .. These trends have become a source of inspiration for retailers. Having become aware of their impact on the environment, distributors are forced to act to improve the situation, but also to sustain their activity.
The retail sector must be re-humanized, be useful to society and consumers alike. Retailers have the cards in hand to achieve this and become key players in a much-needed change. To be efficient, the transformation of their model requires the integration of environmental values into their overall strategy.
What solutions to put in place?
Returning to local consumption is one of the first avenues to explore to reduce the environmental impact of retailers. This has several advantages: less transport, promotion of local players, creation and preservation of jobs… Transparency and traceability of products are just as essential . For 69% of French people, the places and conditions in which their clothes are made are important(6). However, they do not only buy sustainable fashion items. One of the arguments put forward is the brands’ lack of information and transparency on these subjects(7).
Large stores, but also new players such as Amazon or Aliexpress have increased purchasing power. These signs moved to agricultural land and sometimes damaged local industry. To reverse the process, they are responsible for implementing strong initiatives :
- Reindustrialization duty
- Promote traceability
- Take into account the responsible social dimension of city centres.
The second-hand, recycling and repair market is also developing. Or rather, it marks a great comeback, since it was once the norm. Brands like Kiabi, H&M or Etam have developed services along these lines. The repair system is not profitable as it is, but it allows additional sales and improves brand image. So they get benefits from it. We can cite the example of Etam. The brand takes back the old bras of its customers. In return, they receive a discount voucher for their next purchases. Depending on their condition, these products are then donated to associations, recycled or recovered(8).
Other solutions should be explored, such as setting up experiential stores . Giving consumers a new, original or satisfying experience in the store allows them to come on site. This contributes to strengthening the presence of brands at the local level and to developing employment. In the store, customers can see the products, touch them, test them. They make more considered choices and are less likely to be wrong. It also helps to fight against overconsumption.
Retailers are committed to the environment
Many initiatives are being created. For example, the Fashion Pact. This agreement has been signed by dozens of major brands in the textile industry. It aims to implement strong actions to reduce their environmental impact. These commitments are necessary, but they present difficulties. Abandoning fast fashion in favor of sustainable fashion that is more respectful of human rights has a price. The costs cannot be those of yesterday.
Business processes must be revisited:
- Manufacture on demand to produce less, but better and limit waste;
- Optimize processes (algorithms and data)
- Modeling economic performance using data.
- Raw materials: industrialized recycling process. For example, in France for the recycling of cotton and polyester.
- Exploit the advantages of artificial intelligence and data to increase agility, in order to manufacture on time and in good quantity.
To achieve this, this requires a detailed analysis of consumer behavior according to profiles. Fashion Data develops solutions to support retailers on this path. For example :
- Buyer Persona: getting to know customers better, anticipating needs and offering them a satisfying experience. Retailers gain relevance in their actions, they optimize their acquisition costs and increase loyalty.
- Demand Forecast: forecast future sales to produce the right amount of products. This minimizes lost sales, decreases shrinkage and reduces retailers’ carbon footprint.
- Store Identity: better define the specific identity of each store within a network. Retailers communicate better, adapt their offer and merchandising in each point of sale, while maintaining the consistency of the network.
Thanks to these different actions, retailers regain long-term control over the production of their products. They reduce their environmental impact and even save money. They are reinventing the rules of the textile industry and paving the way for other players in the sector, who will in turn have to take responsibility.
CSR has become a crucial issue for the textile industry, often singled out for the pollution it causes. The time is over for overconsumption and disastrous production methods for the planet and humans. Solutions exist and have already been implemented by many retailers. Their salutary awareness sets an example and meets consumer expectations. Driven by solutions like those offered by Fashion Data, this paradigm shift is gradually becoming obvious. Fashion and sustainable consumption are the future. Producing less, but better, in better conditions, is now possible without jeopardizing the economic health of retailers.
10. https://www.marieclaire.fr/fashion-pact,1328593.asp (Baptiste Perrission-Fabert, Chief of Staff of Brune Poirson, Secretary of State to the French Minister of Ecology for Fashion Network)