Welcome to 2020! A new year, a new decade and a new hope for all things we wish to improve in our lives and our world. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about the New Standard Institute, an organization that brings "leading scientists together to cut through the marketing noise to develop a meaningful, data-lead roadmap on turning an industry we love—fashion—into one that is in line with the environmental and social limits of our planet.” Those are the words of founder and director Maxine Bédat, also the founding CEO of sustainable fashion company Zady and a former international lawyer. As Bédat writes in Harper’s Bazaar's Sustainable Style series, created in partnership with the New Standard Institute, her hope is to set the fashion industry on a sustainable path forward. After tracking clothes throughout the supply chain and doing copious amounts of research, Bédat shared three critical takeaways from her research.
The fashion industry, as we’ve shared here before, contributes more than eight percent of all greenhouse gasses on the planet. Bédat shares the sobering statistic that in 30 years time, more than 25 percent of the world’s entire carbon budget will go to the fashion industry IF things don’t change. The good news is, major companies like Levi’s ARE changing the way they make clothes. Here’s something we didn’t know: most of fashion’s carbon emissions – more than 75 percent – come from the mills, where fiber is spun into yarn and where yarn is woven into fabric. Bédat says the only way a fashion company can be truly sustainable is to lower its carbon footprint at its mills. A fashion company may not own its own mill, but it CAN source yarns and fabrics from those with cleaner practices. Online platforms like Thr3efold, which we profiled last month, can help brands find sustainable manufacturing partners and fabrics.
Fair Labor Practices and Women’s Rights
In both developing nations and here at home in the U.S., garment workers, most of whom are women, are among the lowest paid in the world. Working conditions are often unsafe. The tragic consequences of this have put a spotlight on fashion manufacturers to improve conditions in factories and to measure, report, and most importantly, increase, how much workers are paid. Again, it’s a chance for companies both established and just starting out, to examine their supply chains. Work with factories that adhere to higher standards, and set your own standards by creating jobs with fair pay and good working conditions.
Consumers CAN Make a Difference
At the end of the day, people will always buy things, but they are increasingly conscious about what and how they buy. The New Standard Institute is rolling out a global call to action, which you can join here, that calls for brands to align their environmental goals with science and data and to be transparent in the process. Brands do listen to what their customers want, and if what we want is change, we have to tell them. At Variant, we’ve been listening to what consumers want and learning from our past experiences what not to do when launching a new company. We hoped that there were other companies out there who felt the same way, and The New Standard Institute is an amazing affirmation that there are MANY people and companies who see urgent need for change in an industry that we love. Modern-day innovations in technology and science are part of the way forward, but it’s the PEOPLE that make a brand what it is, and the consumers (aka human beings) who can convince brands to make changes.
The Variant Team
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