Circular Fashion – Part II

Circular Fashion – Part II

Part II: Sustainable by the index

The 2022 Kearney Circular Fashion Index has a median score of 2.97 out of 10 – there is yet much to be done

The Circular Fashion Index (CFX), set up by US-based consulting giants AT Kearney, attempts to analyze claims from Europe’s 100 largest fashion brands of moving to a more circular fashion model stressing on sustainability and minimizing negative environmental and social externalities.

The challenge: mitigating the monumental environmental cost being borne by the global fashion industry.

Image: Google search trends for ‘sustainable fashion; Source: Google Trends

AT Kearney research finds, that “both industry and consumer awareness and activity have increased since 2020, resulting in a heightened awareness of the role fashion plays – or doesn’t play – in creating a more sustainable environment. Google searches for sustainable fashion are up by 350 percent.”

In fact, search trends on Google show a steady rise in the search for the keyword ‘sustainable fashion’, peaking at a hundred (on a scale of 0-100) during Q2 2022 and with developed economies expectedly leading from the front.

With second-hand platforms boasting double-digit growth currently and major players in the fashion industry, such as H&M, posting over a hundred times in the past year on topics such as carbon dioxide reduction, biodegradability, and circularity, things definitely seem to be moving in the right direction.

But there is much more the industry can — and should — be doing in terms of promoting sustainability. Every fashion brand should try to become like the front-runners — Patagonia, Levi’s, and The North Face. That would have tremendous environmental benefits, but it would also require brands to be serious about reforming their policies.

As a whole — and with clear shining examples of the opposite — when it comes to the industry’s efforts to date to mitigate its negative impact on the environment there is the little practical distinction between circular fashion and just running around in circles.

– AT Kearney Research

How does one, however, keep track of who is doing what and to what degree?

Enter: CFI

The Circular Fashion Index, assessed across 150 global brands over 20 countries and six categories, scores a company’s circularity performance based on a weighted score across seven dimensions (both in the primary market as well as the secondhand/recycling market) affecting the garments’ longevity. The index is then represented on a score from one to 10, 10 being the highest.

Not doing enough

The dismal state of current affairs is reflected none more squarely than in the median scores of the 2022 CFI results: 2.97 out of 10. “Only 7 percent use recycled materials to any credible extent; 54 percent use recycled materials for a few selected items or a few product features, but 39 percent use no recycled materials whatsoever. While communication and promotion of circularity efforts are the easiest and fastest measures to implement, 44 percent of brands don’t do it at all, and 40 percent settle for giving the minimum amount of care instructions required by law,” reports Kearney.
Luxury and premium brands have the highest scores due to their extensive care instructions and repair services that a demanding clientele expects based on the price premium. Fast fashion and underwear/lingerie have the lowest scores due to the nature of their business model. Second-hand or rental services are harder to introduce in those segments.
Whilst these numbers make for dismal reading currently, it works in putting sustainability in fashion on the radar – and a quantifiable goal to strive towards. Fashion brands need to acknowledge and understand the entire extent of their environmental impact across value chains.
[Read the whole report from AT Kearney here]

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