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COPENHAGEN – The global fashion industry has improved its sustainability performance in the past 12 months, but much more work is still needed, claims new research. A report crunched data from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index alongside a survey of apparel sector executives, and found three quarters of apparel retailers surveyed have made progress on a range of environmental and CSR related issues.

The Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2018 report, published by the Boston Consulting Group and Global Fashion Agenda, gives the fashion industry a “pulse” score of 38 out of 100 – up from 32 last year.

“2017 was a turning point for sustainability,” says the report. “Overall 75 per cent of fashion companies have improved their score compared to last year – raising the pulse of the industry by six-points. This is impressive and encouraging. However, more needs to be done.

“In the past year, the Pulse Score of the fashion industry improved from 32 to 38 (out of 100). The Pulse Survey, representing all industry segments, confirms that the topic is rising on the industry’s agenda. Of the executives polled, 52 per cent reported that sustainability targets acted as a guiding principle for nearly every strategic decision they made – an increase of 18 percentage points from last year.”

The report suggests all of this year’s progress came from companies in the mid-price segment, with this segment accounting for almost half of the industry by revenue. However, it adds that other industry segments showed “little progress in addressing their environmental and social footprints.”

Small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the entry-price segment have not performed well, with the report suggesting they “are likely unsure about where to start with these complex issues.” Meanwhile, the largest companies and sustainability champions are still in the lead, according to the report.

Talking to Apparel Insider about the report’s findings, Morten Lehmann, chief sustainability officer with the Global Fashion Agenda. He said: “The Higg Index of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition holds a fantastic wealth of knowledge and is a very powerful tool but we wanted to look at how we could make that more digestible for the apparel industry. The Pulse report supports this with more than 50 expert interviews with fashion industry.”

Looking ahead, Lehmann said that next year’s Pulse report could provide an invaluable benchmarking tool to measure the impact of the recently launched CEO Agenda by the Global Fashion Agenda.

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