Zero Waste Week, which was the first week of September, was a chance for consumers, businesses, municipalities, NGOs and non-profits to tout efforts (and successes) in their journey toward creating a circular economy where plastics, in particular, are not used.
On the heels of the global event, Robert Lockyer, chief executive officer and founder of Delta Global, is urging fashion brands and retailers to embrace “purpose over profit” where they adopt a waste-free approach and identity. Delta Global is a luxury packaging provider that “provides bespoke and sustainable solutions” to brands such as Tom Ford and Estée Lauder.
“With fashion giants such as Christian Dior embracing the waste-free beauty model and Nike announcing that the brand would only use recycled plastics in all their shoes and clothing by 2024, there is a worldwide determination to solve the environmental crisis we are all in,” the company said last week. Lockyer cited recent commitments made to do just that.
“Whilst there may be economic business risks in reducing your environmental footprint, a greater threat looms in irreversible climate change and risk of reputation,” Lockyer said. “More recently, we saw more than 30 leading brands commit to a G7 Fashion Pact. By working together to implement change, other brands will have to become part of the revolution in order to remain relevant to consumers. With little more than 10 years to stop the irreparable environmental effect, everyone should now be considering ‘purpose’ if they want the world to remain as we know it.”
In this case, Lockyer sees “purpose” as connoting a specific approach that is about “doing” and not just “talking.”
Lockyer warned of businesses that make a commitment, but don’t really take action. “Many companies are simply ‘greenwashing’ their messaging and not showing any tangible actions they have taken address the crisis,” he said. “Corporations should be made to monitor and report on their impact, plus set realistic targets dependent on size and turnover in order to sustain our future.”
With “zero waste,” one of the low-hanging fruit is in packaging. Lockyer cited Christine Dior as an example of a company creating a circular economy by taking a hard look at packages. He said Dior has removed “excess internal packaging, replaced instruction leaflets with scannable QR codes and [has] even removed plastic shop fit-outs for more durable glass ones.”
Central to the process is developing “circular product flows,” Lockyer said, adding that using compostable materials, “re-thinking dyes and inks, creating re-fillable and reusable items plus circulating waste back into the supply chain are all noticeable trends.”
“We need to ensure that the end of a product’s lifecycle is the beginning of another and educate the supply chain,” Lockyer added. “Whether it’s salvaging paper cut-offs into branded inserts or reclaimed paper handles, there’s plenty of options that manufacturers can be thinking about. Alternatively, can we be recycling apparel into designer handbags and new clothing lines?”
Dovetailing with sustainable practices and zero waste approaches is getting the message out to consumers and end-users — but in a sustainable way. “Zero waste shouldn’t mean you have to dilute the brand message or marketing,” Lockyer told WWD. “The world is digitalized and therefore you can promote your values via various communication strategies that require no material usage. Social media, online press, web collateral, podcasts, e-marketing can all reach an extensive audience that will want to get to know your brand because you are presenting an ethical stance and proving your commitment for environmental change.”
Lockyer also said that instead of delivering online goods in “a single-use plastic bag or a brown box with endless unnecessary packing material, develop artistically designed boxes, anti-crush systems and multifunctional uses for your packaging and items. Ensure your product is circular in its life possibilities, whether that’s remaining in a person’s home as an interior, selling on second-life sites, or ‘versatile’ to reuse in a different way.”
Lockyer said behavior change is needed to implement a circular economy. “Breaking away from everyday habits, whether that’s handing over a physical receipt in a store, to printing off an e-mail for a meeting is going to take some time, but creating a digitalized environment and encouraging employees and consumers to be involved in greening their every day is certainly the future.”
In regard to broader trends in sustainability, Lockyer said the fashion industry has already “seen consumers begin to embrace the idea of buying less, yet higher-quality pieces, with some brands creating entire lines designed to be ‘versatile.’ Think of garments that can be worn in many different ways, like wrap dresses and blouses that can be adapted into skirts — the fashion industry should look at designing minimal, multiperforming items that can be priced higher due to their unique selling point.”
“It’s not about being counterproductive by not making money; it’s about delivering a different message to your consumers,” he added.