By JC Glancy
Special to the AFRO
Alongside their hectic celeb lifestyles, some of the biggest names today including Stella McCartney and Gianni Versace are leading the way in sustainable fashion- and we just don’t know how they do it!
According to The Business Research Company, there is an increasing awareness regarding the pollution caused by apparel manufacturing. Annually, apparel manufacturing releases around 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases.
Do your research
When encountering a new business venture or activity, it is always important to conduct some research so you are aware of the field you are about to enter.
Whilst you don’t need to become a sustainability expert, understanding what it actually means to act as an ‘ethically responsible’ business is important.
If you have decided you want to become B Corp certified, which ultimately means putting emphasis on your social and environmental impact, look at the activity of other B Corp certified businesses and apply it to your own.
It may be donating a percentage of their profits to charity, or using environmentally-conscious goods, being aware of what it takes to become B Corp certified before you begin your journey will help you significantly.
Define your sustainability ethics
Before getting knee-deep into this journey, consider the areas you want to focus on first and how you are going to do this.
The two pillars that determine sustainability for a fashion label are ethical production and fabric selection. This sustainable fashion glossary launched by Condè Nast and Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) gives you an insight into the authoritative global resource on sustainable fashion and the fashion industry’s role in the climate emergency.
Use these resources to guide you through what changes you want to make, and in what order depending on importance. Remember, it is not a race to obtain your B Corp certification, it is important you take this journey slowly, but do it correctly.
Source eco-friendly materials
In terms of fabric and materials, it helps to inspect the factories where goods are made and make sure that every item is certified as organic and sustainable.
It is useful to look for suppliers who have a high degree of control over their supply chain and know where their raw materials come from. Ideally, their products should be accredited against a third-party standard and not an internal one.
They should also ensure they provide full traceability on these items and they involve as few miles for transportation as possible.
What is more challenging is finding your ideal fabric, when you are limited to only sustainable and ethically made sources. Fortunately, there are several eco-conscious fabric options.
“Natural” and organic fabrics have a lesser impact than synthetics, as organic cotton crops use less water than conventional cotton and aren’t treated with pesticides, which are harmful to animals, farmers, and consumers.
Explore methods of shipping and manufacturing
Today, it is popular for bigger brands to outsource manufacturing to countries where labor is cheap and unfair, which results in far too many human rights disasters. Therefore, choosing countries with fair labor will ensure better wages and working conditions. Manufacturing locally also means creating jobs in your local economy.
Another thing to consider is the volume of clothing produced. Whilst this may not be ideal for fast fashion companies, it is much more ethical and sustainable to concentrate on producing fewer garments of higher quality.
Also, being a sustainable business means ensuring your shipping methods are ethical. Instead of packaging your product in unnecessary plastic, you could be using biodegradable or recycled materials.
Re-work your brand’s image
Another step to help you establish yourself as a sustainable business is to let your customers know and the most impactful way to do this is through your brand’s image.
Whilst you can communicate this through your social media channels, ultimately you need to indent your sustainability practices in your business’s image long-term.
You can do this either through colors, imagery, or small symbols which indicate sustainability. For example, Patagonia – one of the founding fathers of environmental activism – has embedded a mountain skyline in its logo. Whilst this isn’t an obvious statement it still indicates environmental morals.
Contribute to the community
Demonstrating that your business wants to help the plane alongside working hours will significantly help boost your ethical standards.
New Zealand-American sustainable shoe brand Allbirds donated a pair of shoes to a healthcare worker every time someone purchased from their store, as part of their ‘Better Together’ COVID-19 pandemic pledge. So far, the brand has donated $500,000 worth of shoes to the healthcare community.
Whilst you can demonstrate going the extra mile, even the smallest of things can also make a difference. Caribou Coffee encourages customers to reduce their single-use plastic within their stores by offering a 10% discount when using a reusable mug.
Also try to implement legal, ethical, and fair business practices with your employees. Do this by training them to recognize and report potential violations of society, for example, slavery or human trafficking.
Once you have followed these steps and feel you have completed them to a successful standard, apply for a B Corp certification. To become certified, you must score 80 out of a possible 200 points in an online survey of 150 questions. You will be scored on the following categories; social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
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