Moving Towards A Circular Economy
Sustainability has never been as important to shoppers and phrases like the ‘Circular Economy’ are beginning to get real traction inside and out of the business world. The idea first gained real traction a few years ago when buzz words like ‘closing the loop’ began circulating in the fashion world and became the main focal point of discussion at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit.
Unveiling Make Fashion Circular, the initiative aimed to unite industry leaders from major global brands such as Burberry, Gap, H&M, Nike and Stella McCartney in addressing issues of pollution, waste and sustainability in the fashion supply chain. All participants vowed to work in line with the initiative’s three key principles: to run business models in which garments are kept in use, to use materials that are renewable and safe, and to introduce systems that turn used clothes into new clothes.
Since then we’ve seen the movement begin to make real change within the industry. Brands such as John Lewis launched buy-back schemes, whilst others like The North Face sought to reuse and recycle by repurposing old garments. The pre-owned marketplace also gained traction like never before, with millennials choosing to shop Vestaire Collectives over Matches Fashion and Gen Z shunned Topshop and instead choose to set-up shop, selling, buying and re-selling on Depop. And it’s not just the fashion industry who are evolving their sustainability practices.
Many organisations have since woken up to the extreme crises, both environmental and social, that are impacting global citizens and a result we’re seeing a wave of new innovations pop up to combat this. Within personal care, Dyper is a sustainable nappy brand who, after recognising the huge amounts of waste that comes from disposable diapers launched its ReDyper initiative, providing bags and specially designed boxes for families, which when are full, parents can download a prepaid shipping label and simply ship the box to a dedicated processing centre.
Circular retail isn’t just a sexy term start-ups are incorporating, traditional businesses like Colgate too are brushing up their carbon footprint. The brand recently launched Smile for Good, an eco-friendly, vegan toothpaste sold in a recyclable tube. Which is actually a large feat of innovation since toothpaste tubes are notoriously difficult to recycle. The brand said: “Colgate wants to make tubes a part of the circular economy by keeping this plastic productive and eliminating waste. If we can standardise recyclable tubes among all companies, we all win.”.
Despite seeing more and more brands step up to help ‘close the loop’, we as, consumers still have to be asking what more can be done in the transition towards a circular economy. Surely it takes more than just recycling toothpaste? Answer: it does. In fact, reuse and recycling is only part of the answer. The biggest impact has to come from us, the consumers whose largest impact can be made in simply buying less. Choosing to forgo fast fashion and instead use our purchasing power to buy with purpose and support the brands who are implementing greener practices. Despite this all beginning to sound like a pipedream, it is being proven that we as consumers are beginning to question our consumption habits – a shift that has accelerated thanks to social distancing and self-isolation as well as climate crisis concerns. And the shift is clear: a circular economy might just be the only way for brands to succeed in our new-age world and all of its anxieties.