Production & Suppliers

Sustainable Sourcing - What’s Next: 5 insights from CO Expo

We showcase the 5 leading sustainable sourcing innovations and trends that are set to change fashion for the better.
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This report summarises 5 key sustainable sourcing insights from CO Expo and Common Objective's global sourcing platform.

The goal of CO Expo is to further ethical and sustainability best practice across the fashion industry. Through an annual programme of events we hear from speakers and experts leading in the field, and match brands and buyers with sustainable sourcing solutions. 

This report summarises 5 key sustainable sourcing insights from CO Expo and Common Objective's global sourcing platform.

The goal of CO Expo is to further ethical and sustainability best practice across the fashion industry. Through an annual programme of events we hear from speakers and experts leading in the field, and match brands and buyers with sustainable sourcing solutions. 

1. Regenerative agriculture - supporting livelihoods

Regenerative agriculture offers wildlife friendly farming solutions that encourage biodiversity, restore soil health, and draw down carbon into the soil. 

What makes regenerative organic cotton (ROC) different from organic cotton is the measurement of impact rather than just inputs. For instance, ROC measures the water content and microorganisms in the soil to assess soil health. 

1. Regenerative agriculture - supporting livelihoods

Regenerative agriculture offers wildlife friendly farming solutions that encourage biodiversity, restore soil health, and draw down carbon into the soil. 

What makes regenerative organic cotton (ROC) different from organic cotton is the measurement of impact rather than just inputs. For instance, ROC measures the water content and microorganisms in the soil to assess soil health. 

A less well known consequence of regenerative cotton is its impact on livelihoods. Nutrient-rich soil means greater biodiversity and in turn greater moisture retention, leading to higher crop yields and income for farmers. 

For more insights, listen to the recording of our Impact at Scale session at CO Expo 03.22 in which we hear from Inspirational social entrepreneur Sreeranga Rajan, CEO of Dibella.

Key Takeaway: Regenerative farming isn’t just about carbon capture. It can play a part in supporting livelihoods aligning with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

A less well known consequence of regenerative cotton is its impact on livelihoods. Nutrient-rich soil means greater biodiversity and in turn greater moisture retention, leading to higher crop yields and income for farmers. 

For more insights, listen to the recording of our Impact at Scale session at CO Expo 03.22 in which we hear from Inspirational social entrepreneur Sreeranga Rajan, CEO of Dibella.

Key Takeaway: Regenerative farming isn’t just about carbon capture. It can play a part in supporting livelihoods aligning with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

2. Biofabrics - carbon sequestration

Biofabrics, the innovative lab-based materials that harness microorganisms to grow and dye fabrics and garments, are seen by many as the ultimate future disruptors to how we produce our clothing. Listen to our Leading Edge session recording for insights into how biofabrics that use waste food as feedstock can also sequester carbon. 

Key Takeaway: With investment in biofabrics ramping up we are likely to see the fast-tracking of biofabrics to market over the next few years. Look out for those which specifically use waste feedstocks.

2. Biofabrics - carbon sequestration

Biofabrics, the innovative lab-based materials that harness microorganisms to grow and dye fabrics and garments, are seen by many as the ultimate future disruptors to how we produce our clothing. Listen to our Leading Edge session recording for insights into how biofabrics that use waste food as feedstock can also sequester carbon. 

Key Takeaway: With investment in biofabrics ramping up we are likely to see the fast-tracking of biofabrics to market over the next few years. Look out for those which specifically use waste feedstocks.

3. Vegan leather goes plastic-free 

Vegan leathers are plagued by one issue: plastic. In order to achieve the desired finish, most plant-based leathers include PU (polyurethane).

The good news is that we are going to see a lot of improvements on biodegradability and finishes to eliminate the use of PU. It is already happening but currently lacks scale.

Key Takeaway: Look out for these next generation plant leathers. There is a strong appetite from consumers and they are set to disrupt the industry. Will you make the switch?

3. Vegan leather goes plastic-free 

Vegan leathers are plagued by one issue: plastic. In order to achieve the desired finish, most plant-based leathers include PU (polyurethane).

The good news is that we are going to see a lot of improvements on biodegradability and finishes to eliminate the use of PU. It is already happening but currently lacks scale.

Key Takeaway: Look out for these next generation plant leathers. There is a strong appetite from consumers and they are set to disrupt the industry. Will you make the switch?

4. Sustainability as a catalyst for innovation

Strong brand - supplier partnerships are leading to product innovation and competitive advantage. Wood Belt and Aqua & Rock described how through working together they were able to create a unique, bestselling product - the blue Thetis trench coat, which thanks to the addition of the wood belt buckles, is fully biodegradable. Listen to the recording in the Jewellery and Accessories session for all their insights.

Key Takeaway: If you take care of the social and environmental issues, you can end up with an innovative and competitive product.

4. Sustainability as a catalyst for innovation

Strong brand - supplier partnerships are leading to product innovation and competitive advantage. Wood Belt and Aqua & Rock described how through working together they were able to create a unique, bestselling product - the blue Thetis trench coat, which thanks to the addition of the wood belt buckles, is fully biodegradable. Listen to the recording in the Jewellery and Accessories session for all their insights.

Key Takeaway: If you take care of the social and environmental issues, you can end up with an innovative and competitive product.

5. Suppliers leading the way

There is a step change from brands leading the sustainability agenda towards suppliers innovating and driving the conversation instead. These suppliers are purpose-driven and are only willing to work with like-minded brands. They provide data to help you track your emissions, 3D sampling to minimise your footprint and can help you tweak your label sizes to reduce waste and save money.

Key Takeaway: Look for suppliers that are thought leaders and can help you to achieve your sustainability goals. Tap into their knowledge and work together to build solutions.

5. Suppliers leading the way

There is a step change from brands leading the sustainability agenda towards suppliers innovating and driving the conversation instead. These suppliers are purpose-driven and are only willing to work with like-minded brands. They provide data to help you track your emissions, 3D sampling to minimise your footprint and can help you tweak your label sizes to reduce waste and save money.

Key Takeaway: Look for suppliers that are thought leaders and can help you to achieve your sustainability goals. Tap into their knowledge and work together to build solutions.

Do you have a specific manufacturing or fabric requirement?

Check out CO Create - our new tool that helps your ideal sustainable supplier find you.

Find out more

Do you have a specific manufacturing or fabric requirement?

Check out CO Create - our new tool that helps your ideal sustainable supplier find you.

Find out more

For more insights, inspiration and solutions, check out all of CO Expo including recordings, slide shows and suppliers in each of six categories: 

  1. Material Innovation: The Leading Edge 
  2. Material Innovation: Sustainable Materials 
  3. Production Solutions: Impact Pioneers 
  4. Production Solutions: Impact at Scale
  5. Packaging and Components
  6. Jewellery and Accessories

Visit CO Expo

For more insights, inspiration and solutions, check out all of CO Expo including recordings, slide shows and suppliers in each of six categories: 

  1. Material Innovation: The Leading Edge 
  2. Material Innovation: Sustainable Materials 
  3. Production Solutions: Impact Pioneers 
  4. Production Solutions: Impact at Scale
  5. Packaging and Components
  6. Jewellery and Accessories

Visit CO Expo

We provide a run down of the latest innovations and best practice with the most potential to change fashion - for the better

Author
Melanie Plank

Director of Content & Research at Common Objective