7 Steps to a Greener Fashion Business

A slew of fashion companies, from Zara and H&M to LVMH and Prada, have recently revealed sweeping, company-wide initiatives in the name of greener practices and measures to protect our planet. What’s more, such sustainability pacts as the Fashion Pact by Kering and the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and Global Fashion Agenda’s 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment are spurring major change. The pledged companies span a veritable who’s who of the fashion industry, with brands from ASOS, Adidas and Ganni to Nike, Reformation and Mara Hoffman.

Sustainability is a major factor in the wholesale business too. A number of multi-brand fashion retailers, including Net-a-Porter and MATCHESFASHION.COM, now consider every vendor’s eco-responsibility and impact as a crucial condition for doing business. It should come as no surprise, considering how highly consumers (particularly Millennials and Gen Z) regard sustainable business practices. A 2015 Nielsen report found 66% of consumers worldwide are willing to pay more for sustainable products and 73% of Millennials around the world are willing to do the same.

While many initiatives require significant R&D investment (circular fashion systems, alternative production processes…), others are much easier to attain for medium-sized growth stage businesses. 

Here is a list of some of the industry’s lowest-hanging “green” fruit…

1. Eliminate Single-Use Plastics

Nothing dims the joy of shoppers and store warehouse staff than the arrival of plastics-heavy, irresponsibly-packed packages. Do your part to eliminate harmful waste by replacing traditional poly bags with alternatives such as 100% compostable poly bags and bubble wrap.

2. Decrease Paper Waste at Trade Shows

Use your B2B eCommerce platform to eliminate non-essential paper waste. Stop printing thousands of pages for each trade show, and start building digital linesheets and catalogs that can be updated real-time and viewed online. Not only will this eliminate paper waste, but it also allows you to quickly showcase your collection, capture buyer intent, and submit orders — all in one meeting.

3. Offer Immediates for Higher Sell-Throughs Each Season

Take advantage of your B2B eCommerce platform to offer immediates every season. Of course, the higher your sell-through, the better your success with inventory management. It’s an excellent way to reduce overproduction, a serious issue in the fashion industry. Use your B2B wholesale system to identify slow-moving SKUs, then develop personalized linesheets and brand stories presenting the merchandise in a cohesive, exciting way that speaks to buyers’ potential in-season order needs.

As seasons pass and you amass more sales data, you’ll be able to make savvier production and wholesale decisions for an increasingly streamlined inventory.

4. Source Sustainable Materials

Incorporate more sustainable, environmentally-friendly materials into your fashion collections. There are so many high quality, viable solutions available today, including organic cotton, organic linen, ECONYL ® Regenerated Nylon, sustainable viscose and recycled nylon and polyester. What’s more, a number of new materials continue to emerge over time, such as Orange Fiber, a patented, silk-like fabric made from citrus fruit waste that first appeared in a Salvatore Ferragamo capsule collection on the occasion of Earth Day 2017.

R&D has come a long way, thanks to the work of sustainable fashion leaders like Stella McCartney: “For the first three years, it took us time and cost us money. But now we have something that’s better for our business in a mindful and emotional way.” 

The road to sustainability can be a long one; consider using new eco-fabrics in your next collection or practicing reusable methods like upcycling.

5. Reduce Travel Time

According to the EPA, domestic air travel represents 12% of transportation-related carbon emissions. Drastically reduce your impact by scaling back to the essentials. Schedule less in-person meetings, reserving the bulk of your appointments for market where you can close several meetings at once in the same venue or city. 

Leverage your digital B2B eCommerce portal to share everything from personalized linesheets and new season lookbooks to ad campaigns and order drafts. Buyers will appreciate the opportunity to save time and money.

6. Offer New Product Categories and Experimental Styles via Capsule Collections

Use your B2B eCommerce platform to offer capsule collections featuring new product categories or experimental styles. In lieu of producing higher quantities of riskier SKUs, start slow via these limited-edition collections. Offer them to current, former and prospective buyers through your digital portal and set up a concurrent email marketing campaign. Tip: Personalize the campaign, addressing each buyer personally in each email, and explaining the relevance of your new offerings in relation to their stores. How can their business and their shoppers benefit from your new offerings?

Based on the success of specific products or categories, you can make the decision to move them into Main Collections later on. Buyers love low minimum order SKUs as they offer the opportunity to try something new with minimal risk and little financial investment.

7. Offset Your Carbon Footprint

Finally, find a way to offset your carbon footprint. Businesses large and small can make incredible impacts on the environment. Take measures to undo your damage by participating in a carbon footprint reduction program. Organizations like Carbonfund.org calculate how much money you should donate (and how often) based on your business size, donating the money to efforts in renewable energy, forestry and energy efficiency. Popular sustainable fast fashion brand, Reformation, has found great success with offsetting their carbon impact; they also offer climate credits via a special partnership with NativeEnergy.

“It is not as simple as saying that by wearing sustainable clothes the planet will be saved, though; it goes much deeper than that. With all of the challenges in most people’s daily lives, it is often a luxury to have the time to think about sustainability and buy sustainably. While we want to educate and generate awareness of the industry’s more eco-aware and socially responsible options, it is up to the brands to make these shifts — fast fashion, slow fashion, all fashion — to make sustainable options accessible to all people.”

Mara Hoffman

Ready to run a greener fashion business with a B2B wholesale eCommerce platform? Request a demo today.