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Measuring sustainability: These key figures make it possible

Sustainability – i.e. careful treatment of nature, resources and people – is becoming increasingly important. This affects all industries and therefore also companies whose business revolves around clothing. Word has gotten around that consumers are paying more and more attention when it comes to the origin of products. Companies that are sustainable are rewarded by deeper customer loyalty.

Everyone wants to benefit from this, but not everyone wants to take on the costs and effort of real, practical sustainability. If few real “seals of quality” and full-bodied promises are the only thing a company can show on the positive side, it is called “greenwashing”. How real is sustainability in individual cases? Companies and their customers alike want standards that help separate the wheat from the chaff. Metrics are such criteria and they deliver real results. 

Key figures for sustainability in the fashion industry

The most common statements made about the sustainability of fashion brands are based on the key figures presented below.

1) Carbon Footprint 

The so-called CO2 footprint measures the greenhouse gases released by products or activities. Not only the pure production is taken into account, but also the cultivation and production of ingredients or packaging and the transport routes. The carbon footprint can be significantly reduced if companies use local resources, reduce consumption and strive to shorten their supply chains.

Image: Industry in particular has a high C02 consumption.

2) Water consumption 

The question of how much water is used to grow fibers, produce them and dye them is one of the most important for the fashion industry. This is where many manufacturers and their suppliers commit real environmental sins. Consumption can be measured by two separate metrics, namely the H2O index or the water footprint, a counterpart to the carbon footprint. 

Image: Water is an important commodity.

3) Social fairness 

The production of clothing affects not only nature and wildlife, but also the people who live and work in the countries where it is produced. A large part of production takes place in emerging countries - also because the requirements, specifications and controls there are far less strict than in Europe or North America. Organizations such as the Fair Wage Network or the Fair Labor Association measure how much the workers really earn, what working conditions prevail and whether basic human rights are safeguarded.

Image: Good fashion is fair.

4) Fibers and materials 

The materials used contribute significantly to the effect of fashion - but may also harm the environment. Water consumption, toxic properties and possible recycling are just some of the criteria used to measure the actual sustainability of fashion components. The key figures can be looked up in the Higgs Index or the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

Image: In all shapes and colors.

5) Recycling 

Can discarded clothing, shoes and accessories be recycled? Recycling, as well as offering take-back, are further characteristics of sustainable companies. Manufacturers who feel committed to the Global Recycling Standard can have this certified, for example through the Cradle-to-Cradle certification process.

Image: Reuse, Recycle - giving new life to old clothes.

Against fast fashion – with key figures

Companies that take their social and ecological obligations seriously serve as role models. Fashion plays an important role when it comes to protecting our environment - and is therefore particularly responsible when it comes to making the future more sustainable. 

So that successful sustainability can be proven, there are key figures - they make the leading players in the sustainable fashion segment visible and thus provide incentives - for customers and other companies.  

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