Fashion and Apparel

When we think of corporations polluting, our minds usually point to oil companies, and plastic litter. The other pile of waste that consumers usually forget about, comes from the retail brands – shoes, clothing, apparel, and textiles. The Higg Brand Tool is used worldwide with over 200 members to measure the environmental and social impacts of operations and provides the knowledge for stakeholders and supply chain partners to run ethical businesses.  Some popular brands that use this tool include Nike, North Face, Call it Spring, MEC, Brooks, Burberry, Adidas, and more. Similar to an extended-producer responsibility, the Higg Brand and Retail Module measures the entire life cycle of the product, from beginning to end that makes it easily accessible for consumers to decide whether or not the product is worth buying from, for the environmental fate. Textiles have a 5% loss rate of raw material, synthetic leather has a 10% loss rate of raw material and the dyeing processes (think of jeans) has a 15% loss of water that gets evaporated from heating processes.  The Higg Tool allows corporations to use endless combinations of swapping various materials to obtain the lowest environmental impact.

Environmental Measurements:

  • GHG emissions
  • Energy and Water Use
  • Deforestation
  • Hazardous chemicals
  • Animal welfare such as leather and comparing alternative materials such as synthetic leather that result in varying levels of tradeoffs

Social Measurements:

  • Child labour
  • Discrimination
  • Forced labor
  • Sexual harassment and gender-based violence

The material sustainability index shows the environmental impact per 1kg of material ranging from 1 being the least impactful and the higher numbers being the most impactful. For example, nylon/polyamide (PA) plastic is heavily used in textiles and the score for each category is as follows:

  • Water Scarcity with an MSI score of 1.3

  • Eutrophication with an MSI score of 7.3

  • Global Warming with an MSI score of 10.4

  • Abiotic Resource Depletion, Fossil Fuels with an MSI score of 9.9


Benefits of reusing products according to New Plastics Economy:

  • cut costs –> less volume of packaging and transportation needed if using a more compact container
  • build brand loyalty –> deposit and reward schemes
  • improve user experience –> consumers respect reuseable items
  • gather intelligence –> reuseable items are tracked
  • adapt to individual needs –> consumers still have the flexibility of choosing the type of food they want with reuseable containers
  • optimise operations –> corporations can share their bottles within networks rather than producing millions of their own

New Plastics Economy

50 brands have commited in adopting a reuse and refill solution in hopes of aiming for a circular economy. A circular economy is distinguished from a linear economy of take, make, waste and is translated into reusing materials, and keeping waste out of the environment. Loop is an initiative started by TerraCycle in which consumers order household items, personal care items and groceries online and is delivered to their homes in reuseable containers. Once these products are finished, they are placed back into the sturdy bag and picked up by Loop staff to wash and sterilize the container and reuse them. Loop is collaborating with Loblaws and is expected to come to Toronto in early 2020. It is about time that Loblaws steps into a more sustainable practice since their 2018 Annual Report had a small section on page 142 of 144 that the report was made with 100% recycled paper with absolutely nothing else quantifying plastic packaging reduction. Loblaw focuses heavily on an economic environment such as sale targets, investing in the future, returning capital to shareholders, rather than the natural, built environment. There are zero goals highlighting the progress of reducing plastic packaging.  Loblaw had responded that they joined the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition .

The objectives of this coalition is to:

  • eliminate plastic waste
  • restore ecosystem health that was damaged by manufacturers
  • use renewable energy to power each life-cycle of plastic
  • develop new business models