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Sustainable initiatives come at a price for global apparel makers

Sustainable strides are being made in the denim world at large. But the apparel industry as a whole is overusing the word sustainability, and taking steps toward a more environmentally friendly output is not enough to truly change consumers’ attitudes about why they should buy higher priced, better-for-the-world products. The barrier to scaling sustainable solutions and increasing positive impact is cost. Consumers are price conscious and would be unwilling to take on a sustainability tax. In order for mainstream customers to widely adopt sustainable solutions in apparel, not just luxury consumers, it should be cost neutral.

While there is no shortage of innovative ideas cropping up across the industry, it now falls on brands and their partners to commit to the widespread adoption of proven sustainable techniques. Shoppers are gunning for a more environmentally stable future and pushing brands to show their work instead of just delivering answers and demanding trust. As the resources used to produce apparel—like fibers, water and electricity—become more expensive, mills and factories must innovate to cut down on waste and maintain unit cost. Apparel using post-consumer recycled materials—a widely available feedstock—would reduce the costs and resources used to grow and produce virgin materials, and also reduce landfill waste. But, again, a cost-conscious consumer will only buy-in if it is cost neutral.