The fast pace of fashion and ciclical trends are driving the sector to produce more clothing tan ever, with estimations showing that the number of produced garments each year has doubled since 2000. A very small portion of what’s created gets recycled and big quantities of clothes are discarded before even reaching their first use. These practices have put a focus on fashion brands and their impact on the planet, receiving criticism for the destuction of unsold products and sending clothes to landfills abroad.
In the past decade sustainability practices have become a major focus for fashion brands. Zara, owned by the Inditex group, is commited to use recycled materials and “ecologically grown cotton” to 50% of the items to be sold in 2022. Other brands like H&M, Boohoo or the Kering group have published sustainability reports with goals to include more recycled and organic materials in their collections too. To embrace ecodesign and add sustainability criteria in the production process is highly important to achieve a circular end-of-life of the garment with reuse-recycle approaches, however we are still far from closing the loop if fashion doesn’t embrace as well the reduce approach.
If success is still measured with growth and a constant increase in sales, we need a new ruler. The pace of garment production often exceeds demand, arising the question of what happens to the clothing that never gets sold. Some brands are aiming at measuring and decreasing the inventory surpluses, and redirect the unsold items at the end of each season through reselling policies with authorized third parties. Smaller quantities can be donated or recycled.
Any brand can generate unsellable products, whether it’s unsold inventory, damaged goods or customer returns. The fashion industry is still working to make the solutions for dealing with overproduction more effectively and at a large scale.
In Europe, France banned the destruction of unsold, unperishable stocks such as garments. A disruptive policy that was embraced later on by the European Union and that is being adapted within the legislation of each country. In Spain the Ley de Residuos will adapt this policy to tackle the issue and ban the destruction of unsold inventory.
Fashion brands try to address the problem of sustainability by encouraging consumers to shop for more sustainable fabrics, but the reality is that just leads to more and more consumption. The major challenges to make fashion sustainble are structural, but while overproduction and overconsumption adjust to new standards which are respectful with our planet, we will continue working on the solutions available to buffer the impacts of these practices.