Fashion and apparel. It touches nearly everyone. When its at its best, fashion and apparel is not only functional, but also fun, expressive, sexy, and for some businesses, very profitable. But when it is at its worst, fashion and apparel is superficial, exploitative, polluting and extremely wasteful - in other words the essence of unsustainable consumption. And while it is argued that the industry's rapid growth has created employment opportunities for more than 300 million people worldwide, especially for women in poorer countries and those in extreme poverty, many garment workers still struggle to earn enough to pay to meet even their most basic needs. More alarming is the fact that as the industry grows - by 2030 more than 8 billion people will live on the planet, and nearly 5 billion of these will be part of the global middle class - its negative environmental impacts may become unmanageable, potentially undermining its social benefits and contributing to ecosystem degradation on local, regional and global scales.
Who would have thought garments could be so destructive?
The fashion industry must change now, but will we manage in time? Join Mike Schragger, founder of the Sustainable Fashion Academy, as he explores the challenges, incentives and disincentives and emerging solutions needed to rapidly transform the industry. Listen in as he talks with the business leaders, activists, researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs, investors, legislators, consumers and citizens - who are racing against the clock to find solutions that will transform the industry, thus ensuring it truly operates for the benefit of people and the planet.
For Ken Pucker, circularity is just another win-win fantasy & distraction for the fashion industry.
Ken Pucker, former Timberland COO and current Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, recently published a series of pieces critiquing the circular agenda for fashion. In this content rich interview, Ken explains the history of how market-led voluntary solutions became the norm and the rise of what he calls Sustainability Inc., how circularity in the fashion industry is just another attempt to maintain the unsustainable status quo, the seven barriers preventing circularity from being a realistic solution, and what he thinks we need to do instead to ensure this industry can operate within the planetary boundaries. We discuss whether commercial companies are consciously deceiving their stakeholders about the potential of circularity, the limitations of unfettered capitalism and the psychology behind growth, and whether the industry should be much smaller. For more background, read his Business of Fashion opinion piece "Circularity is a Fashionable Fantasy" and his articles in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, "A Circle that is Not So Easily Squared: Can the fashion industry make a successful turn to a circular business model?" and "The Dangerous Allure of Win-Win Strategies".
HOT OFF THE PRESS: Climate & The 1 Trillion Dollar Question
Now that climate action has rapidly moved to the top of the apparel industry's agenda, it is crucial that the industry moves from intention to action - and fast. The latest analysis indicates what we need to do, but the 1 trillion dollar question is how much capital will be required to do it. Enter the Apparel Impact Institute (AII) and Fashion for Good (FFG), who have now weighed in regarding how much financial outlay is needed. You've probably already guessed it: they arrived at 1 trillion US Dollars needed over the next 30 years. During this interview, Michael speaks with Ryan Gaines, Finance Director at AII, and Rogier van Mazijk, Investment Director at FFG who co-authored this new report, "Unlocking the Trillion Dollar Opportunity". We quickly get into the weeds and discuss what needs investment, how much, and who needs to do it. We talk about the roadblocks, and we even hear how finance people view legislation and industry growth. So if you are committed to helping the apparel and textiles industry meet its climate targets, and want to know if and how we are going to get there, then this podcast for you.
HOT OFF THE PRESS: Fashion is endangering our forests. A new report from Canopy weighs in on what we need to do about it.
Forests play a crucial role in promoting biodiversity, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and supporting livelihoods, especially in poorer countries. But because wood is the basis for so many of our products, the pressure to exploit forests, usually in unsustainable ways, continues to increase. What does this have to do with the fashion industry? A significant percentage of the fibres used in fashion come from wood, and the market for wood based textile fibres is expected to grow. Our industry may therefore be indirectly contributing to the unsustainable management and even destruction of our remaining forests. In this episode, Mike speaks with Nicole Rycroft, Founder and Executive Director of Canopy, an NGO that works with the forest industry's biggest customers and their suppliers to develop business solutions that protect our last frontier forests, and Robert van de Kerkhof, Chief Commercial Officer at Lenzing. Using two recent reports released by Canopy as a point of departure, Nicole and Robert explain why forests are crucial for our survival, what brands and viscose producers can and should be doing to protect them, what next generation innovations are needed and what it will cost to transform viscose supply chains by 2030.
HOT OFF THE PRESS: Are the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the HIGG tools making a meaningful difference? A new report weighs in.
It's been nearly a decade since Patagonia, Walmart and a number of other brands, retailers, manufacturers and NGOs established the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), an innovative industry collaboration. As the coalition's website states, its vision is "an apparel, footwear, and textiles industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities". In turn, members must commit to measuring and improving their social and environmental sustainability impacts, using the HIGG Index suite of measurement and management tools. A significant amount of resources and hard work has been invested in the SAC, so it is appropriate to discuss and constructively debate whether, after nearly a decade, the coalition's tools and overall work are making a meaningful difference. In this episode Michael speaks with Dara O'Rourke, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of a report assessing whether the SAC's Facilities Environmental Model (FEM) and the act of standardising, measuring and reporting has resulted in meaningful improvements. Dara presents what he sees as the strengths and weaknesses of the FEM and explains the report's recommendations for increasing the SAC's impact. On top of this, Dara and Mike talk consumer psychology and communication, data, the limits of voluntary industry standards and monitoring, and why there are no silver bullets. The report can be found here: https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/g67d8/.
DEBATE: Part 2 - A proposed Swedish chemical tax on textiles - is this a case study in great government leadership or political greenwash?
Sweden has a reputation for being a sustainability leader in many areas, so you can imagine how curious we were to learn about a newish proposal from the current Swedish government for a chemical tax on textiles. The proposal was recently made available to stakeholders for comment, and of course, a robust debate has ensued. Is this proposal, as presented today, going to lead to a reduction in harmful chemicals in Sweden and globally? Or is it a smoke screen for a government that is looking for ways to raise revenues for its national budget? And is the proposal a done deal, given the political parties agreed to this ahead of time when forming a government? In Part 2 of this episode, Michael speaks with experts who are positive to the proposed tax. We hear from Therese Jacobsson, Head of Ocean, Water & Toxics at the Swedish Society of Nature Conservation (a well established Swedish NGO), and two researchers who participated in the proposed tax advisory group: Daniel Slunge, an environmental economist at the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development and the FRAM Centre for Future chemical Risk Assessment and Management, and Åke Bergman, a professor at Stockholm University and highly respected environmental chemist. Unfortunately the politicians and political parties supporting the proposal did not respond to our request for comment. Given we need bold and smart government leadership more than ever, we think this is an excellent case study for exploring what good government leadership can look like as well as which government actions can be problematic.
DEBATE: Part 1 - A proposed Swedish chemical tax on textiles - is this a case study in great government leadership or political greenwash?
Sweden has a reputation for being a sustainability leader in many areas, so you can imagine how curious we were to learn about a newish proposal from the current Swedish government for a chemical tax on textiles. The proposal was recently made available to stakeholders for comment, and of course, a robust debate has ensued. Is this proposal, as presented today, going to lead to a reduction in harmful chemicals in Sweden and globally? Or is it a smoke screen for a government that is looking for ways to raise revenues for its national budget? And is the proposal a done deal, given the political parties agreed to this ahead of time when forming a government? In Part 1 of this episode, Michael speaks first with textile industry representatives to hear why they think the proposed tax is very problematic. You will hear from Jérôme Pero, Secretary General for the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry, Magnus Nikkarinen, Senior Policy Director in Sustainability at the Swedish Trade Federation, Mikael Larsson, researcher at the RISE Research Institute in Sweden, Eliina Brinkberg, Environmental Manager from Nudie Jeans Co. and Anna-Karin Dahlberg, Head of Sustainability at Lindex. In Part 2 you will hear from actors and experts who are more positive to the proposed chemical tax. Given we need bold and smart government leadership more than ever, we think this is an excellent case study for exploring what good government leadership can look like as well as which government actions can be problematic.
Love Michael Schragger!
As a former student of the Sustainable Fashion Institute, I’m an avid listener of this engaging and vitally important podcast. It’s an easy way to stay dialed-in to some of the most pressing matters of our time.
Great interview with a world champion
It was a great explanation of what we face. Lewis Perkins has been working tirelessly to make this industry a meaningful, less damaging exercise in humanity for this planet. You should interview Justine LeConte next. She also reminds me of this balanced view.