SPONSORED CONTENT – Over the past 18 months, the fashion industry has faced increased scrutiny over its environmental claims. What was once accepted without question is now being examined closely by civil society organizations, media outlets, and regulatory bodies.
The term “greenwashing” has gained prominence, and the urgency to address environmental issues is reinforced by reports of extreme weather events. Fashion brands and retailers are familiar with sustainability, and they understand the importance of promoting genuine progress and setting ambitious climate-related targets.
In the journey toward sustainability, the fashion industry has encountered two significant challenges: the lack of verified data and transparency in the supply chain. Without accurate measurements, brands and retailers cannot make informed decisions or demonstrate progress towards their sustainable goals. Additionally, without knowledge of a product’s origin and supply chain, it becomes difficult to substantiate any sustainability claims.
Apparel Insider recently put some of these issues to Dr. Gary Adams, president of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, which works with U.S. cotton growers to support the production of more sustainably grown cotton.
He said: “To effectively communicate accurate and meaningful sustainability commitments, brands and retailers must be provided tools that allow them to access quality, field-level data, and separately – though equally important – understand their supply chain. These tools haven’t previously existed, so brands and retailers haven’t been able to report on progress in the way they have wanted to.”
The concerns surrounding greenwashing have escalated, including with regulatory bodies who are stepping up their efforts to combat misleading claims. The EU’s Green Claims Directive, along with other authorities such as the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, are taking action.
“These regulations can work to create a level playing field, rewarding responsible operators and best practices. However, the industry needs to provide brands and retailers the tools to measure environmental impact and therefore enable them to communicate authentically about commitments and progress,” said Adams.
We also asked Adams about the Trust Protocol’s work and, specifically, how it can help fashion brands to ensure their eco claims are robust, specifically with reference to cotton supply chains.
He told us: “Launched in 2020, the Trust Protocol was designed to set a new standard in more sustainably grown cotton, ensuring that enrolled growers are able to measure the environmental impacts of their operation and identify opportunities for continuous improvement. It is the only system that provides measurable, verifiable farm-level data in six key sustainability metrics across water use, land use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, soil health and soil carbon – as well as providing article-level supply chain transparency.
“We recognise the importance of data – both for brands and retailers to better understand and report on their goals, and for growers to know where and how they can improve their practices.
“By working closely with U.S. cotton growers, the Trust Protocol helps them measure and verify their sustainability practices, while supporting their commitment to continuous improvement.”
In a world increasingly focused on sustainability, fashion brands and retailers play a crucial role in addressing environmental concerns. By embracing transparency, verified data, and collaboration, the industry can navigate the challenges of greenwashing and promote genuine progress.