A new global benchmark is helping brands and retailers promote sustainability and extend the lifespan of their clothing products.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) released its 2017 Sustainable Clothing Guide last week, which serves as a universal model for industry members on how to develop, manufacture and sell sustainable garments that last longer and can easily be reused. The guide will enable brands and retailers to work together on better environmental practices, including reducing carbon, water and waste throughout apparel lifecycles.
Prioritizing durability and quality in apparel could reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. Durability drives quality by safeguarding against garment failure, strengthening brand reputation, driving consumer satisfaction and facilitating more sustainable processes. The Sustainable Clothing Guide provides two definitions for durability: physical durability, which considers garment construction and design to create damage-resistant products, and emotional durability, which looks at consumer desirability and relevance based on material choices and style.
Brands and retailers across apparel categories can enhance durability with three key actions, according to WRAP. For one, engaging in eco-friendly sourcing practices, like using fabric scraps, not only supports durability, but inspires consumers to buy products that are more sustainable. Providing guidance on sustainable design also reduces the use of natural resources, minimizes apparel waste and encourages consumers to down-cycle old garments. Lastly, enhancing fabric strength and surface quality with sustainable bleaching, dyeing and finishing treatments lengthens the lifespan of garments and minimizes planet pollution.
Durability can also be promoted through efficient product testing. Industry members can collectively establish testing protocols for components and manufacturing elements in their supply chains for high-quality and eco-friendly apparel. Many industry standard tests, including those for color fastness and flammability, are now available for garments worldwide. With the testing, brands and retailers can detect issues that affect clothing durability and take proper steps to create an eco-friendlier supply chain for better apparel products.
Although the guide is a collective benchmark for industry members, brands and retailers can also take internal action to step up their clothing durability initiatives, according to WRAP. A Quality Management System (QMS) could be created to develop specifications and ensure that quality standards are communicated throughout the supply chain. Risk assessments also enable brands and retailers to identify issues that impact clothing longevity, including unsustainable sourcing and manufacturing practices.
Once QMS’s and risk assessments are put in place, brands and retailers can collaborate internally with other supply chain employees, including designers and technologists, quality managers and corporate sustainability teams, to develop high-quality clothes without less impact on the environment.