Cradle to Cradle: Fashion’s Future?
We are all well aware that the fashion industry is extremely toxic, just two notches down from petroleum and agriculture. We have heard the statistics, seen the pictures and frowned at the participating designers. But what is being done to rectify this? Where is the silver lining? Because there is one… There are brands that are focused on doing the right thing. And what might that be?
Look no further than William McDonough and Michael Braungart for the answer. As the founders of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, McDonough and Braungart aim to bring about a “new industrial revolution that turns the making of things into a positive force for society, the economy and the planet.” Their institute is creating this change by advising brands, businesses and governments about the various ways they can improve their design and manufacturing processes.
One of these ways is to assess products and factories according to five criteria: the state of the materials used, whether these materials can be re-used safely by nature or industry, whether the products were produced using renewable non-polluting energy, what their impact is on the water supply, and whether they were made in ways that safeguard the health of the people who made them. The goal is not simply to reduce the human and environmental impact of a product, but instead to combine the “progressive reduction of ‘bad’ with a steady increase in ‘good’.”
Lewis Perkins, Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute’s Vice President of Textiles and Apparel noted that:
“Currently, the burden — though it’s not necessarily a burden but a responsibility — is on the consumer to be more sustainable, and I’d like to see that shift.”
With the development of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a trade organization that aims to reduce the environmental impact of products, the conversation among brands is beginning to happen. So far, more than one-third of the clothing and footwear markets are a part of this coalition. And while major manufacturers and brands – such as Nike and Gucci – that have joined the coalition might not yet know exactly where they are going with their sustainability efforts, they are saying “We know that we have to be at the table. We know that we have to be participating. We need to be using the coalition’s internal indices to find out where we are.”
With the rapid growth in Cradle to Cradle certifications and memberships combined with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and consumers’ increasing awareness of all these developments looming over manufacturers’ shoulders, change is bound to come.