Will the new data platform help the fashion industry?
“It takes around 7,500 litres of water to make a single pair of jeans, equivalent to the amount of water the average person drinks over a period of seven years.” This is the first sentence of the article “UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost of staying fashionable” distributed by the United Nations on its website in March 2019. This article warns that although the fashion industry has a glamorous image, it is actually an industry with a large environmental impact.
To help reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry, tech company Google has announced a partnership with WWF Sweden. What kind of activities will the two organizations start in the field of fashion?
Google says the fashion-related industry now accounts for 20% of global economic wastewater and 2-8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Most of them are generated in the production process of raw materials. However, as a characteristic of the fashion industry, the supply chain, including the procurement of raw materials, manufacturing, inventory management, distribution, and sales, is highly fragmented. For this reason, it is said that it is difficult to collect and evaluate the data necessary to grasp the entire industry when considering specific measures. Google and WWF Sweden will work together to collect and evaluate that data.
Google began collecting data on clothing materials in 2019 in partnership with fashion brand Stella McCartney. They set up indicators for each material, such as greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, soil impact, and pollutant levels, in order to clearly show the environmental impact of each material. Meanwhile, WWF Sweden, together with major furniture retailer IKEA, began analyzing the risks and impacts of textile materials in 2018. And they created an index tool similar to Google’s.
Google and WWF Sweden will now collaborate on an updated platform leveraging all of these data types, aiming to further increase the accuracy and relevance of raw materials assessments. The new data-rich platform is expected to help promote responsible materials procurement throughout the fashion industry. In addition to Stella McCartney and IKEA, they are already in talks with many fashion and luxury brands, sports brands, denim manufacturers and retailers.
“Our ambition is to fill fundamental data gaps by bringing greater accuracy to environmental reporting—ultimately moving toward more sustainable processes. By combining our technology, and with data inputs from many key industry brands and retailers, we believe we can significantly magnify this work together.” said Kate Brandt, Google Sustainability Officer. Although the project is moving forward, the fashion industry, like other industries, is still in the early stages of environmental measures. In order to establish concrete environmental measures, first of all, the establishment of an accurate database is required.