Managing Director & Senior Partner
The pressure is on fashion companies to change the way they operate. For starters, consumers are increasingly willing to take their business elsewhere when they disapprove of a company’s sustainability profile. In addition, some startups, recognizing the power of sustainability in fashion, are founded on the sole purpose of being sustainable. And, in the age of social media, success or failure in achieving sustainability in the fashion industry is easily amplified. Consumers and employees use social media to voice their feelings about these issues, whether it’s carbon emissions, workplace conditions, or animal welfare.
It’s imperative that brands look at all aspects of their business—especially their operating model—to ensure sustainability, combat climate change, and reinforce ethical business practices.
There is a lot of work to be done to improve the environmental and social performance of fashion companies—and a big upside for companies that manage to improve their footprint. BCG’s sustainable fashion consulting experts help companies develop their vision and ambition for sustainability and improve their operating models across the value chain.
We work together with clients to benchmark performance and set goals. We then define an operating model that will help them meet those goals and communicate progress to stakeholders to establish the brand’s new position on ethical business practices. For ambitious companies, a total business transformation ensues. We support that transformation and ensure that the company has the mechanisms, people, and processes in place to operate continuously in ways that are both sustainable and successful.
To help fashion brands get there, we deploy a comprehensive sustainable fashion framework:
The sustainability health check, our starting point, looks at 18 key social and environmental levers; we’ve determined which levers to assess based on interviews with fashion industry and sustainability experts. The brand’s standing on each of those levers is combined with other research-based data:
Our assessment yields a Pulse score, which measures the environmental and social performance of the company against the fashion industry on a scale from 0 to 100. In 2017, the industry scored 32. Performance improved to 38 in 2018 and 42 in 2019.
Improvement can come from enacting the next steps in our sustainability in fashion framework:
Creating an Innovation Accelerator. The C&A Foundation, which became the Laudes Foundation in 2020, partnered with BCG to set up a not-for-profit innovation accelerator supporting startups and fashion players in innovating and scaling tech and approaches that make the value chain of the fashion industry more sustainable. Together with suppliers in India and Bangladesh, the team developed several initiatives, including the first cradle-to-cradle "gold-certified" T-shirt. The approach was shared with the industry on the Fashion for Good homepage, and C&A was the first retailer commercializing the T-shirt and applying the approach to other parts of its assortment. The collection became a bestseller in its retail stores, with margins on par with conventional products.
Galvanizing Action Through a Global Coalition. Fashion Pact is global coalition of fashion companies that focuses on improving the environmental performance of the industry by setting common goals and defining targeted actions. It is committed to driving impact along three dimensions: climate, biodiversity and the oceans. BCG works with Fashion Pact as a thought partner and is supporting the development of an action-oriented roadmap for tracking and reporting progress, underpinned by measurable milestones and KPIs.
The industry’s aggressive push toward sustainability creates a multibillion-dollar opportunity for investors.
The fashion industry has improved its social and environmental performance in the past year, but at a slower rate than the previous year. Despite this improvement, the fashion industry is still far from sustainable.