CO Data

Measuring the Sustainable Fashion Retail Sector

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Key Takeaways
  • Definitions of ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ fashion vary, making it difficult to measure the scale of the sustainable fashion retail sector.
  • CO gathered data on the number of sustainable collections offered by major high street brands in the UK; on key issues monitored in six ranking reports of various global brands; on coverage of of sustainability in trade media, and Google Trend data.
  • The research shows that the sale of fashion that is actively promoted as sustainable and ethical is less than 1% of the retail offering in the UK.
  • A sizeable number of companies – particularly luxury names – are not engaging or engaging very poorly in improving supply chain practices on labour rights.
  • More than half of companies surveyed are not acting fast enough on environmental management in supply chains and are choosing only a tiny proportion of sustainably produced fabrics.

Arguments in favour of sustainable fashion have been aired for some time, but how far are they prompting the industry to change its practices? Anecdotally, changes seem to be afoot in various businesses but extrapolating from that to gauge the wider picture is difficult.

For a start, the definition of what is ‘sustainable’ (and/or ‘ethical’) fashion varies. Depending on which source is consulted, the terms can encompass a slew of environmental and social issues – from cutting waste, chemicals …