What Do Sustainability, Fashion, And Shenzhen Have In Common?

This Sunday morning we held another offline meet up with members of our growing Shenzhen Impact Community. The topic was Innovation in Fashion Industry towards Sustainability. Obviously, I'm not a fashion guru and so to speak the idea about this theme did not come from my head. In fact, in the beginning, I was not keen to make an event with this topic until one of my friends Lukas Hlavac co-founder of successful Chinese Fashion Startup Whoolala come back from Shanghai Fashion Week and showed me some raw facts about the dark side of the fast garment Industry. I was surprised how heavy it affects not only the environment but social and economic issues as well.


"The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil."

Suprised by the fact above? Mee too! Everyone who has access to the internet can google out: "fashion industry pollution facts, but...we the reality is that most of us swiping fingers on Tinder, scrolling across food pics of models and smart quotes on Instagram or simply checking your facebook profile instead. The reality is that most of the consumers didn’t know, or care, how their two-dollar tube socks were being made...I'm not saying this to point out my righteousness. I am part of the crowd who need to educate on this matter.

Luckily enough some people and companies care and willing to take action towards brighter future of potential sustainability. One of those is KERING and their EP&L Methodology which among other valuable services also help companies in fashion industry uncovering opportunities reducing their environmental impact.

Now back to our meeting! I was surprised by the simplicity and genius idea of playing a game on designing our apparel fashion product. The flow of the game goes like this: In the beginning, you facing several choices such as choosing a product (Jacket, Ring, Handbag, Shoe), What material is it make of (Cashmere wool, Wool, Cotton, Silk, Organic Cotton, ABS, etc.) Where are the materials from, and Where is the product made. At the end of the funnel, handy iPhone app shows you the results of the environmental impact of the product in EUR based on your choices.

The turning point of this whole game happens when you click on the little gold star on the left side of the screen revealing the lowest impact option for the product of your choice. This "moment of truth" screen in front of your eyes shows how bad was your decisions. Interestingly enough in most cases, you are far from the ideal model, and the differences in the impact are huge.

"More than 150 billion garments are produced annually, enough to provide 20 new garments to every person on the planet, every year".

That was the AHA moment when I realize how significant really are the choices I made. It also helps me to imagine the impact of decisions made by companies at the beginning of the supply chain like those deciding about the sourcing of the raw material. It is not about the evil corporations and hopeless consumers who are not able to make a positive change. Apparently, better choices are all around; the problem we are facing as a society seems to be our priorities and focus rather than anything else.

Unfortunately (for my ego) I was part of the less sustainable team of the whole event despite my effort to make the best choices possible. What is moral of this little story?

Our choices matter!

I believe that to make the right choices with the right impact; We have to be willing to listen and learn. We should also invest time and effort to re-think the basic design of our business environment where the right choices being encouraged and trained rather than intimidated and daunted.


This blog was originally published on LinkedIn