The State of Sustainability in the Fashion Industry

In today's fashion landscape, sustainability has become a powerful force, compelling brands to reassess their operations and present an eco-conscious image. As consumer demand for ethically sourced products grows, fashion companies are recognizing the need to adopt concrete measures for responsible practices. From sourcing materials to manufacturing processes, a comprehensive approach to sustainability is emerging, aiming to address the industry's environmental impact. The fashion industry's impact on global carbon dioxide emissions is substantial, accounting for 932 million metric tons, which is up to 10% of the total output. Additionally, it plays a significant role in generating one-fifth of the world's annual plastic production, amounting to 300 million tons. These figures highlight the pressing and immediate requirement to adopt sustainable practices within the industry. To ensure a prosperous and accountable future for fashion, a fundamental transformation towards sustainability becomes imperative. This transformation should encompass environmentally and socially responsible approaches to sourcing materials, manufacturing processes, and ensuring fair working conditions and wages throughout the supply chain. Embracing Sustainability: The Global Surge of Ethical Fashion Amidst the thriving landscape of ethical fashion, the global fashion market is experiencing a notable transformation. As of 2022, sustainable clothing items have claimed a modest share of 4.3% in the market, increasing from 2.83% in 2017. This upward trend indicates a growing awareness and demand for eco-friendly fashion choices. Furthermore, the ethical fashion market has witnessed remarkable growth, achieving a substantial value of nearly USD 7.5 Bn in 2022, driven by a steady compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.5% since 2017. Looking ahead, projections suggest that the ethical fashion market will continue to expand, with a projected value of USD 11.2 Bn by 2027, growing at a notable rate of 8.1%. Beyond 2027, the journey is expected to maintain its momentum with an estimated CAGR of 8.6%, ultimately reaching an impressive value of USD 16.8 Bn by 2032. [caption id="attachment_10440" align="aligncenter" width="626"] Estimated value of the ethical fashion market worldwide from 2022 to 2027 (in million U.S dollars)[/caption] The market growth is driven by a surge in man-made and regenerated materials, such as Tencel, a fabric made from sustainably sourced wood pulp, and innovative options like Pinatex, which is derived from pineapple fibers. These materials collectively contribute to this expansion with an impressive 50.9% share. Additionally, the organic segment is projected to exhibit high growth at a rate of 16.4% CAGR. Animal cruelty-free brands currently dominate the market, holding a 43.3% share, while eco-friendly brands are expected to grow rapidly at a rate of 10.6% between 2022 and 2027. In terms of regional dynamics, the Asia Pacific region takes the lead in the ethical fashion market, holding a significant 33.0% market share in 2022. Eastern Europe and South America are poised to emerge as the fastest-growing regions, with projected CAGRs of 12.5% and 10.3%, respectively. Driving Forces and Challenges: The Ethical Fashion Market's Journey Towards a Responsible Future The significant growth of the ethical fashion market is driven by several key factors. The rise of emerging markets, increased foreign direct investments, and a growing focus on sustainable fashion by consumers have all played a pivotal role in this expansion. Despite challenges, such as the high costs and the impact of reduced free trade, the global apparel market is increasingly aligning with ethical fashion, converging towards a shared vision of a responsible and eco-conscious future. One of the primary drivers behind this growth is the increasing global population. As the world's population continues to grow, the demand for innovative and sustainable fabrics used in apparel, automobiles, and home furnishings products is on the rise. This presents significant opportunities for companies in the ethical fashion market to capitalize on the growing demand for efficient and durable fabrics. However, the path to sustainability in the fashion industry comes with challenges. Integrating sustainable practices requires substantial investments, posing financial hurdles for businesses. Additionally, the complexities of reduced free trade need to be carefully managed to balance sustainability with global commerce. The war in Ukraine is also significantly influencing the industry, resulting in inflation and disruptions that have compelled companies to suspend or halt operations in the affected regions. Consequently, well-known clothing brands such as H&M and Zara have been compelled to close stores and suspend their activities in Russia, leading to adverse effects on the market's growth. [caption id="attachment_10441" align="aligncenter" width="656"] Challenges faced by fashion executives to improve consumer perceptions of their company's sustainability credentials worldwide in 2022.[/caption] Emerging Trends: Recycling, Upcycling, and Storytelling for a Greener Future Amidst these challenges, there are several noteworthy trends that are shaping the ethical fashion industry. Recycling and upcycling have emerged as crucial practices to reduce waste. By recycling materials and upcycling discarded items, companies can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and minimize waste in the manufacturing process. For example, Rubymoon, a UK-based swimwear and activewear company, creates its products using fishing nets and plastic bottles from the ocean. Similarly, India-based social enterprise EcoKaari upcycles waste plastic into handcrafted fabrics, which are then used to make fashion accessories and utility items. Another trend gaining traction in the market is storytelling and customer education. Brands are increasingly transparent about their production and design processes, highlighting their commitment to ethics and sustainability. By highlighting good practices in sourcing and production, companies can build credibility and trust with consumers who prioritize eco-friendly choices. For example, RSPR, a Doha-based clothing manufacturer, educates consumers on eco-friendly and ethical fashion, emphasizing their use of recycled plastic bottles to create soft, antimicrobial garments. Leading Brands Driving Global Awareness In response to the growing demand for sustainability in the fashion industry, brands worldwide have embraced eco-friendly practices, highlighting the power of global awareness in promoting sustainable development. Companies that prioritize true sustainability are reaping positive results in their communities. Levi's is a prime example of a brand that excels in this area, with its impactful campaign "Buy Better, Wear Longer." This global initiative raised awareness among consumers, urging them to make conscious apparel choices while emphasizing Levi's commitment to producing durable clothing that lasts for generations. By collaborating with influencers like Emma Chamberlain, Levi's successfully engaged with the younger generation and amplified their sustainability message through media reach. Another exemplar of sustainable practices in the industry is Patagonia. Patagonia not only employs sustainable materials in its clothing but also empowers customers to repair their clothes instead of buying new ones. The company gives customers the opportunity to bring clothes that are still in good condition back to the brand for new merchandise credits. The pieces are then cleaned, repaired, and sold on the company’s Worn Wear platform. By encouraging customers to value and maintain their clothing, Patagonia fosters a culture of sustainability and responsible consumption. Conversely, lack of access to data, metrics, and transparency around sustainability initiatives has been the primary barrier hindering change, often leaving retailers uncertain about the cost versus benefits. To embed sustainable practices seamlessly into their value chains, retailers require appropriate tools and measures, making sustainability a standard part of their business operations. As companies prioritize reducing their carbon footprint, they are employing various approaches. Many are opting for recycled/sustainable raw materials and packaging, demonstrating their commitment to environmental responsibility in both upstream and downstream aspects. However, while 56% of companies are using more recycled/sustainable raw materials and 46% are using sustainable packaging, there remains a significant distance to cover before the industry fully embraces these vital elements as an integral part of their operations. The fashion industry is experiencing a profound shift towards sustainability, driven by increasing consumer demand for eco-conscious choices. With the industry's significant environmental impact, urgent and concrete measures are essential for a responsible future. Fortunately, the rise of ethical fashion has been remarkable, displaying a steady growth trend and a promising market value. Recycling, upcycling, and storytelling are emerging as key trends, fostering a greener future. Leading brands, like Levi's and Patagonia, are setting a positive example by prioritizing sustainability and promoting responsible consumption. As we move forward, it is crucial for the fashion industry to embrace sustainable practices wholeheartedly, making them an integral part of their operations and ensuring a thriving, eco-friendly future for all. Author:  Yassine Falk Sources:,USD%209.81%20billion%20by%202027

Consumer trends and the demand for sustainable products

  Sustainability Concerns Continue to Rise Issues of sustainable production and consumption have, over the last ten years, become increasingly important in the eyes of consumers around the world. Companies have had to make changes to meet these new expectations and can expect to do more of the same, in the future, in line with the continuation of this trend.  According to a 2015 study by NielsenIQ, 66% of global consumers surveyed responded they would be willing to pay more for sustainable brands, up from the 50% who said they would do so in 2013. Almost half responded they would pay more to environmentally friendly companies and those demonstrating a strong commitment to social values. In recent years, pressure on companies to pay attention to issues of sustainability has only continued to mount.  In a 2018 survey conducted across 5,000 consumers in Europe, for instance, nearly 40% of respondents said their top priority was that food and drink be produced in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, while almost a third prioritized paying workers a fair wage and ensuring that animals were not harmed during production. Almost three-quarters of all respondents wanted to know how their food is produced and a similar number wanted food companies to say where the ingredients in their products come from. Further, 61% reported looking for information about how food companies protect workers’ human rights.  Respondents placed even greater emphasis on the need for companies to act on global challenges. Protection of the environment was cited as important by 88 % of those surveyed, with 85% and 84%, respectively, responding similarly with regards to tackling climate change and global poverty.   Sustainability: The Global Nature of the Change in Consumer Preference  The European findings are echoed in a 2018 Accenture study of 35,000 people in 35 countries, which revealed that two-thirds of consumers make decisions about what to buy based on a company’s transparency, while 62% wanted companies to have ethical values and demonstrate authenticity.  A BCG survey conducted in July 2020 found that in the six-member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, more than 80% of consumers said they were willing to live more sustainability. Moreover, 56% of respondents said they felt strongly about the need to adopt a sustainable lifestyle The 2021 Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey, published by Euromonitor International, further demonstrates the extent to which changing consumer preferences are global, and not restricted to Western or developed markets. It found, for instance, that almost 35% of those polled in emerging or developing markets reported that they buy sustainably produced goods. (Figure 1.) [caption id="attachment_7865" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Figure 1. Euromonitor International, 20-Aug-21, Ethical Claim Potential Index Identifies Top Market. Source: Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey, 2020 n=26,321; 2021 n=26,222[/caption] The Sustainable Market Share Index report, published by the NYU Stern School of Business in 2021, showed that the same shift in consumer preferences could also be seen among US consumers. The annual share of sustainability-marketed products there, for example, grew from 13.7% in 2015, to 16.8% in 2020. (Figure 2.) [caption id="attachment_7862" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Figure 2. NYU Stern, 1-Mar-21, Sustainable Market Share Index 2021[/caption]   Covid-19’s Impact on the Shift Towards Sustainability Several surveys conducted in the wake of the pandemic have found that people are more concerned about environmental challenges because of the pandemic and are more committed to changing their own behavior to contribute to sustainability. Consumers are, as a result, reducing their household energy consumption, increasing recycling and composting, and buying more local goods. In a recent BCG survey, 90% of consumers said they were equally or more concerned about environmental issues after the COVID-19 outbreak, while 87% of respondents felt companies should better integrate environmental concerns into their products, services, and operations. In May 2020, research firm Kantar found that COVID-19 had led to a global surge in localism, with 65% of consumers responding that they preferred to buy goods locally (local products do not have to be shipped over long distances and therefore require fewer resources to bring to market, producing fewer carbon emissions in the process). November 2020 Data collected by data analytics firm GlobalData shows similarly that consumer perceptions have changed during the pandemic, with over 50% of respondents interviewed during lockdown claiming they found locally sourced ingredients more important than before the outbreak Perhaps most interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed consumer perceptions and priorities with regard to sustainability. Prior to the outbreak, the term was used as a synonym for environmentalism. Now, however, consumers report expanding their definition of sustainability to include how companies treat employees and interact with their local community.    Company Reactions  Companies have had to make changes in line with changing consumer sentiments and have done so in ways that can be broadly categorized into four areas of action.   1- Addition of Sustainable/Ethical Labels Leading food companies and retailers are growing their share of assortment with sustainable claims. Nestlé, for instance, has been purchasing more local and healthier food labels to offset declines in some of its mass-market brands.  Another example is Dutch supermarket Coop’s switch entirely to Fairtrade bananas. German retailer Lidl’s has done the same across several European countries, and Nespresso has also expanded its sourcing of Fairtrade goods.    2-ESG Commitments Companies are increasing or shoring up their commitments to ESG policies and plans. Unilever, for instance, had already established sustainability goals that included net-zero emissions from its products by 2039, and investments of $1.1 billion in ESG-friendly initiatives over the next ten years. It recently added to these goals by announcing plans to label all its products with information on how much greenhouse gases they generate throughout the entire value chain of their production.  Further examples include Zara’s 2020 pledge to use 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025, H&M’s recently stated commitment to achieving the same goal by 2030, and Adidas’ commitment to phasing out virgin polyester by 2024. Finnish grocer Kesko serves as another example, with its aim to become carbon neutral by 2025 and achieve net zero by 2030. 3-Sustainable Packaging Other companies are increasing their focus on sustainable packaging, to reduce their use of plastics. Giro Pack, for instance, has developed compostable bags that are produced using plant-based or organic materials.  In April of 2021, P&G announced that Old Spice and Secret deodorants would appear in plastic-free packaging in certain stores, as part of a 2030 goal to reach 100% recyclable or reusable. Nestlé has also reported strong progress on its commitment to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, and to reduce its use of virgin plastics by one-third, by that year.  4-Social Impact Initiatives Other companies have chosen to prioritize initiatives that aim to produce positive social impact. Germany’s REWE, for instance, along with Portugal’s Jerónimo Martins, launched initiatives to better integrate migrants into the labor market and promote intercultural cooperation. Similarly, Swedish furniture giant IKEA recently broadened its social impact by committing to employ refugees at production centers in Jordan — part of the company’s stated long-term goal to employ some 200,000 disadvantaged people around the world.   Outlook Going forward, increased, and rising awareness, the influence of social media, and regulatory initiatives with regards to sustainability are expected to drive the market. While no company can expect to be immune from these influences, the pressure to act will be felt most keenly by companies operating in certain consumer goods sectors, such as food and beverage, and fashion.  According to the Ethical Food Global Market Report 2021, the global ethical food market is expected to grow from $542 billion in 2020 to $574.42 billion in 2021, before reaching a projected $727 billion in 2025. The global ethical fashion market is expected to show even greater rates of growth, going from $6,345.3 million in 2019 to $8,246 million in 2023, before growing further to $9,808 million in 2025 and $15,173 million in 2030.  Smaller though significant increases in market size should also be expected across almost all categories of sustainably produced consumer goods, and if the shifts that have taken place over the past decade are any indication of the decade to come, the importance to consumers of sustainability will only continue to grow.   Consumers have shown that they have become far more attuned to how brands speak and more importantly, how they behave. With consumers focusing more on sustainable, socially, and environmentally responsible consumption, companies will need to demonstrate that they’ve changed with the times. Only companies that can prove they meet the new, more ethical consumer standards will be able to thrive in a more sustainability-conscious world.   Author: Omar Elkayal   Sources:  Mi3, 12-Oct-21, As Australia re-opens, brands truly delivering social good, localism and sustainability will roar ahead Euromonitor International, 20-Aug-21, Ethical Claim Potential Index Identifies Top Market Boston Consulting Group, 11-Aug-21, Sustainability Matters Now More Than Ever for Consumer Companies, 1-Aug-21, Global Ethical Food Market - 2021-2028 ThinkwithGoogle, 1-Aug-21, How localism is driving brand engagement with consumers across the globe Euromonitor International, 1-Jul-21, Where to Play and How to Win? Mapping the Opportunity of Sustainability in Packaged Food Mckinsey, 14-Jun-21, The path forward for sustainability in European grocery retail Blend, 22-Mar-21, The Newest Fashion: Sustainability and Ecommerce Localization NYU Stern, 1-Mar-21, Sustainable Market Share Index 2021 Mckinsey, 12-Feb-21, The ESG premium: New perspectives on value and performance  Mckinsey, 26-Jan-21, NEF Spotlight: The path forward for retail’s sustainable future Businesswire, 11-Jan-21, Global Ethical Fashion Market Report 2020: Opportunities, Strategies, COVID-19 Impacts, Growth and Change, 2019-2030 Boston Consulting Group, 1-Jan-21, Are Consumers in the Gulf States Ready to Go Green? GlobalData, 17-Nov-20, Localism will show high relevancy after COVID-19 pandemic has subsided Boston Consulting Group, 14-Jul-20, The Pandemic Is Heightening Environmental Awareness McKinsey, 1-Jun-20, The State of Fashion 2020 Fair Trade International, 10-May-19, Shoppers are demanding sustainable options – are companies getting on board? NielsenIQ, 10-Jan-19, A natural rise in sustainability around the world ATKearney, 1-Sep-18, Competing in an Age of Multi-Localism

Fast Fashion in Africa

The second-largest sector after agriculture in Africa is the fashion and textile industry with an estimated market value of $31 billion in 2020 and growing every year (1). Fast fashion is a marketing and manufacturing model where clothing moves instantly from the runway to retail stores. Fast fashion captures the latest fashion trends and styles and manufactures clothing immediately to satisfy demand, season after season. It is able to do this by optimizing certain aspects of the supply chain to produce designs quickly and inexpensively. Marketing teams then target mainstream consumers, persuading them to buy the latest collections. These items are often set at a low price, making them attractive to a wide base of consumers encouraging them to replace one season’s garments with the next (2). Fast fashion produces around 52 micro seasons instead of the traditional 2 per year, increasing demand at an exponential rate. (12). Examples of fast fashion retailers include H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, Primark, Topshop, and Next that produce massive amounts of clothing very efficiently (3). But what is the fast fashion industry doing in Africa? What opportunities does it bring to the table and what risks does it present to this continent? Fast fashion can contribute positively to the African economy. Within Africa, the entire textile/clothing sector is already the second-largest employer after agriculture (4).   In Kenya, data shows that every job in the garment sector generates 5 other auxiliary jobs (4). With shorter shipping routes to European and USA markets, Africa also has an important strategic advantage over Asian manufacturers. In fact, it takes just three weeks for a shipping container to travel from West Africa to Western Europe and a month to travel to the East coast of the United States. Africa also benefits from lower (or comparable) labor costs to Asia and apparel manufacturers in many African countries offer duty-free deals (or reduced tariffs as much as 30% compared to Asia) when entering European, American, and Australian markets (4) giving Africa a competitive edge over its Asian counterparts. Clothing and textiles represent about 7% of world exports, and apparel production is. For instance, Ethiopia is already a destination for apparel manufacturing such as Guess, Levi’s, H&M, which have shifted their production therefrom China (13). According to the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (OXFAM), if Africa, East Asia, South Asia, and Latin America were each to increase their share of world exports by 1% the resulting growth could lift 128 million people out of poverty (4). The torch of the “world’s low-cost manufacturer”, long-held by China, is set to pass to Africa in the very near future (5). China has its sights set on shifting the focus of its economic system towards creating a significant domestic market with greater consumption capacity. For this reason, it is trying to go beyond a model that hinges on cheap labor. The African economy instead is still growing by 10% annually, an exception in the last decade, making it an attractive destination for foreign investors (5). In this context, Chinese firms are now looking to delocalize their production, without surrendering control of the supply chain, by seeking out, as European and American firms have done before them, low wages and suitable infrastructure (5). In Africa, the potential for attracting these investments is considerable, owing in part to wages being as low as 60-70 dollars per month in countries like Ethiopia (5).  The fast fashion industry moves very quickly, and African countries are also interested in attracting this industry as it provides an opportunity for much-needed economic diversification. Countries like Ethiopia are a good example of the possible synergies to be had. There is a great deal of investment flowing into the country because of its lower wages and proper infrastructure, with good access to ports, a young and motivated workforce, and labor market governance that is favorable to investors. The country is also in the same time zone as Europe and is conveniently situated geographically with respect to target markets. Other countries with high potential include Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya. Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, recently scrapped its textile import ban, driving renewed interest from international fashion and apparel retailers. The country is currently home to leading brands such as Levi’s, Mango, Nike, and Swatch, which have set up stores in the Palms Shopping Mall in Lagos (7). These are all countries where increased macroeconomic stability has been conducive to the influx of capital (5).  “Western companies were ignoring the prospects of the continent of Africa, especially with fashion retailers. Some not shipping there at all, others taking 21 to 30 days […]” (6).  Yet, that will quickly change as they begin to grasp the opportunity that Africa offers (6). On the other side of this coin is the deleterious environmental impact of this production model. According to statistics published by the United Nations Environment Program and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than the aviation and shipping sectors combined (8). The industry’s use of water and energy has marked it as one of the planet’s biggest polluters. Climate change is already having a negative impact on food security and public health (9). In addition, Africa faces the unique problem of being the last link of this industry’s value chain: 45% of all donated clothing globally ends up in the hands of for-profit brokers, with 70% of that ending up in Africa (10). Kenya alone, for instance, imported a whopping $133 million worth of worn clothing from Canada, Europe, and China in 2017, practically wiping out their homegrown textile industry (10). As purchasers attempt to resell their items, they are often unaware of what products they are receiving, or even their quality. If the quality is sub-par, the materials get tossed in landfills losing traders lots of money and creating huge piles of trash. This means that developing countries are importing more waste textiles than the cotton they export and are therefore losing major profits– suffocating both their economies and their environments (10). Farmers in Burkina Faso, the largest cotton producer in sub-Saharan Africa, have identified that the cotton they produce seems to only gain real value once it is exported to outside countries, like China, and turned into fabrics, threads, and garments. Those garments are then sold globally (in stores like H&M, Topshop, or Zara) used, donated, and end up back in Africa, only to get thrown away. As calls for corporate consciousness begin to rise, initiatives for change are emerging. Consumers have a greater awareness of issues like sustainability. This has resulted in organizations, like the United Nations, considering negotiations to reform fast fashion’s destructive manufacturing process (10). Indeed, Africa looks like a promising market for fast fashion; however, a new improved system is needed. A version that is better than the current one where the production model is more sustainable and that supports a circular economy rather than a linear one. Reform is needed to save not only the environment, but also the people. Sara Yamama - Research Analyst Sources:

October 20 2015 | Consumer Goods & Retail
Exploring the Potential of e-Commerce in Africa

Despite the lack of appropriate electronic payment systems and sometimes limited access to internet, many experts and e-Commerce companies are positive about e-Commerce growth in Africa. According to a report published by Mckinsey & Company in 2013, e-commerce is expected to grow considerably over the next few years : “By 2025, it could account for 10% of retail sales in the continent’s largest economies, which will translate into some US$75bn in annual revenue.”[1] Beside, more and more African and International companies are interested in investing in the e-commerce market and aim to expand their activities in Africa. (more…)

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