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CFDA’s Newly Launched New Resource Hub Aims to Fuel Sustainability Efforts

The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) “unpacked” its new Sustainability Resource Hub, meant to raise industry efforts in the field, at Premiere Vision New York on Tuesday.

Launched in January, CFDA program manager Cal McNeil said the Sustainability Resource Hub serves as an extension of the work and programs the CFDA has done around sustainability in recent years. The hub is available free of charge on the CFDA website, and includes a “Guide to Sustainable Strategies” PDF book, a sustainable strategies toolkit, a resource directory and materials index.

At a Smart Talks seminar at PVNY, Domenica Leibowitz, creative consultant for the project, said the goal of the guide is to make people and companies feel that it’s easy to get started on a sustainability strategy. Leibowitz considers the chapters of the guide like a circle, where there’s a starting point and end point, but you can really begin from anywhere.

“All points of entry are equally valid…It’s about choosing and getting in touch with which one is the most important to you and starting there,” Leibowitz said. “You notice that ‘good design’ is in the middle–to me and to the CFDA, sustainability is good design. You can think of each chapter as one component of good design.”

Leibowitz said there is no way to be 100 percent sustainable yet and each company’s journey toward that effort will be different. That’s why it’s important as a first step to determine the values a company wants to achieve and create a plan toward attaining those objectives.

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For some sustainability questions, like ‘should you use less water or less energy?’ the answer is really a straightforward yes. But for other questions that arise for companies as they outline their sustainability strategies, the answers may not be as clear cut.

Offering an example, Leibowitz said polyester ranks higher than natural fibers when put into a sustainability calculator because it uses less water and energy, it’s less chemical intensive in the dye process, has longevity and doesn’t require a lot of washing. However, what’s not always figured into the calculation is that polyester is a non-renewable resource and sheds microplastics in the wash that make their way into the water ecosystem.

“Sustainability is hard and there are no set solutions, so it takes creativity to solve,” Leibowitz said. “Even smaller companies can have an influence based on their sourcing decisions.”

Each chapter in the guide includes a worksheet, recommended tools, a list of organizations and standards, and suggested readings in a specific area. Key chapters include “The Business Case for Sustainability.” Other chapters offer insights for creating a sustainability strategy, designing for sustainability, company culture, materials processing and manufacturing, and end of use and recycling.

“There is finally data out there that shows that sustainability pays–it should be viewed as a business opportunity,” Leibowitz said.