Collaboration and Innovation – Steps Toward Responsibility in the Apparel Industry

Over the past several years, there has been a societal shift when it comes to food—consumers are checking labels at the grocery store, frequenting farmers’ markets on the weekends, and asking restaurants where they source their meat and produce. This is not a revolution by any means, but a transition to consumer responsibility is happening.

On the other hand, the global apparel and fashion industry is staggering in size, employing 1 in 6 people (True Cost). Yet, in spite of the global reach of the industry, consumers continue to be disconnected from how their clothes are made and where they come from. How can we shift this paradigm? Fortunately, there are many organizations and companies taking responsibility and making positive change through collaboration and innovation.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) has been an amazing unifying entity within the apparel and footwear industry. Connecting fashion brands and outdoor brands under an ambitious goal: “an apparel, footwear, and textiles industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities. With this vision, the SAC has successfully introduced the Higg Index, creating tools for brands to measure the impacts and sustainability of their supply chain. I look forward to seeing how brands choose to communicate their Higg Index scores to their consumers in the future.

Industry organizations are a great way for businesses to join forces to combat large issues, however, brands are also taking their own approach to communicating their sustainable mission. Levi Strauss & Co. recently collaborated with Outerknown to produce a capsule denim collection centered water conservation and fiber traceability.

Both of these brands are raising the bar in product sustainability, however where I think they both shine is through their storytelling. Both Levi’s and Outerknown use their garments as a jumping off point to tell a larger story of sustainability – whether that be Levi’s’ Water Less process or Outerknown’s “the hands that build our clothes” graphic tee selection.

Brands are stepping up and taking big steps and risks to better connect their consumers with the story of the garments. It is exciting to see the industry taking steps to produce products more consciously and educate their consumers about the impact of the garments they purchase.

I am drawn to the apparel industry because of the size of the problem that needs to be addressed. There are endless possibilities for improvement and I want to be part of the movement.

Written by sholland

Sam is 2019 MBA with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Sam is a self-starter and team builder with 4 years of international development experience specializing in program development and research. Sam is passionate about business because of its ability to have a positive social and environmental impact on communities.