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Breaking Down What Sustainability Means in the Fashion and Beauty Industry

Breaking Down What Sustainability Means in the Fashion and Beauty Industry

Posted by Mair Emenogu on Apr 26th 2024

Sustainability isn't just a buzzword; it's a crucial ethos that guides industries toward a greener future. But what does sustainability truly mean in fashion and beauty?

What Sustainability Means To The Fashion & Beauty Industry: For a fashion and beauty company, sustainability entails adopting practices that minimize negative environmental and social impacts throughout the entire product lifecycle. This includes responsible sourcing of materials, ethical manufacturing processes, waste reduction, and promoting fair labor practices. Additionally, sustainability involves transparency in operations, engaging with stakeholders, and striving for continuous improvement in environmental and social performance. Ultimately, sustainability in these industries aims to ensure long-term viability while minimizing harm to the planet and supporting the well-being of communities involved in the supply chain.

Corporate Responsibility and Greenwashing: In recent years, the concept of greenwashing has become prevalent, with some companies misleading consumers through deceptive marketing tactics by jumping on the latest ESG trending topic. Greenwashing undermines fashion and beauty companies' genuine efforts towards sustainability and erodes consumer trust. Brands must prioritize authenticity and integrity in their sustainability initiatives, fostering transparency and accountability at every stage.

What Sustainability Looks Like When Done Correctly: We’ve seen what it looks like when a company prioritizes profits, we’ve seen what it looks like when a company prioritizes people. Have we seen what it looks like when a company prioritizes Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles? I went to Harlem Fashion Row’s Sustainability Forum on Earth Day and heard A LOT of tangible ways fashion and beauty companies can adopt sustainability in their workstreams and product development.

  1. Material Selection: Opt for eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, hemp, or Tencel in clothing production, and prioritize natural, biodegradable ingredients in beauty products. Avoid harmful chemicals and microplastics.
  2. Supply Chain Transparency: Ensure transparency throughout the supply chain by partnering with ethical manufacturers and suppliers. Conduct regular audits to ensure compliance with fair labor practices and environmental regulations.
  3. Circular Design: Embrace circular design principles by creating products with longevity in mind. Design clothing and beauty packaging for durability and recyclability, and offer repair and recycling programs for customers.
  4. Waste Reduction: Implement waste reduction strategies such as using fabric scraps for new products or donating unsold inventory to charitable organizations. Minimize packaging waste by using recycled or biodegradable materials.
  5. Community Engagement: Engage with local communities through initiatives like fair trade partnerships or philanthropic projects. Support social causes aligned with sustainability, such as environmental conservation or women's empowerment.

Fashion and beauty companies can not only reduce their environmental footprint but also contribute to positive social impact and build stronger relationships with consumers who value sustainability. In conversations after the event, I met with brand owners who embrace sustainability not only in their businesses but also as a lifestyle, and they encouraged me to do more self-discovery in the fascinating world of sustainability and also that it transcends the product itself—but also fostering a culture of responsibility and innovation.

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