MILAN — While some fashion players bank on high-tech and futuristic innovations to advance their sustainable and circular commitments, the recent output of the Monitor for Circular Fashion Report 2021, spearheaded by leading Italian school of business SDA Bocconi and energy company Enel X, signals that simple is better.
“We don’t have to think about sci-fi projects but rely on innovations and technologies that are already available,” said Nicola Tagliafierro, head of global sustainability at Enel X, commenting on the results of the report presented at the SDA Bocconi premises.
He cited a McKinsey report on energy consumption in the fashion sector which highlights how within the decarbonization process, 60 percent is related to better and greener management of energy resources. “A company can always implement pilot projects and small innovations, but the reality is that their impact on the sustainability of the supply chain is very little,” he offered.
The panel featured 14 companies across the fashion supply chain and included Vivienne Westwood; outerwear specialist Save the Duck; sole maker Vibram; textile and yarn suppliers such as Candiani Denim, Vitale Barberis Canonico, Manteco and Ica Yarns, as well Dedagroup Stealth; Intesa; Oscalito; PLM Impianti; Radici Group; Temera, and retailer OVS.
Francesca Romana Rinaldi, coordinator of the Monitor for Circular Fashion at SDA Bocconi School of Management Sustainability Lab, explained that new companies to cover current gaps such as retail, man-made textile makers and leather goods will be selected for the second iteration next year.
The monitor aimed to spotlight the challenges and opportunities, as well as the options available in terms of circularity to map out a Managerial Agenda with concrete actions to be implemented in order to enhance firms’ circularity performance.
Based on a desk analysis of 30 updated reports on circular fashion and on a field analysis via questionnaires and interviews submitted to and carried out with the involved players, the report focuses on 14 circular KPIs and their application in the fashion system, including circular design, co-creation, up- and downcycling, peer to peer platforms, waste management and repair, among others. Indicators were grouped in five key enablers: sustainable input, life extension, end of life, product as a service and sharing platforms.
Among the key findings the report underscores that upstream activities such as circular design are more common than downstream initiatives including repair services, signaling that ingredient companies and suppliers have so far led the sustainable agenda.
To this end, Romana Rinaldi offered that in order to enhance circularity and the communication of it, consumers, which she and the report describe as final users, “should be increasingly involved and activated by companies with ad hoc programs to engage them, regardless of the commercial purpose of such initiatives.”
The use of renewable energy sources is also a hot-button topic, as few companies have implemented them and monitor their consumption, which amounts to more than 146,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the involved companies.
According to the questionnaires and interviews, fashion players agreed that despite the operative trade-offs related to the implementation of circular business models, the latter can secure stronger efficiency and cost reductions, which entail a competitive and economic advantage.
The companies outlined a road map to pursue in order to scale circularity. It encompasses the measurement and evaluation of circularity, the enhancement of traceability and transparency across the value chain, as well as the intervention of policymakers to improve waste management and end-of-waste criteria.
“One of the best achievements of the report was the interaction between players across different supply chains or those within the same pipeline that usually only engage in commercial conversations. Here they could exchange ideas and understand each other’s points of view,” said Romana Rinaldi.
“Although individual companies can do a lot, and here we’ve seen so many best practices, there are actions that the fashion system as a whole needs to embrace and this is a community of players that are supporting each other,” she added.