Making sustainability count both for the consumer and the organizations is a topic that will lead to successful purchases and launching for both ends if done on a high-level. In conversation with Giusy Bettoni, CEO of C.L.A.S.S.
Applied to fashion companies, the most recent research of CDP in 2019, where investors and customers requested 136 fashion and textile companies to disclose their water impacts, revealed only half (62) companies responding to the request with data. Seven out of 62 (including Kering and H&M) show their awareness of water pollution, and only one mentions microplastics and microfibers. As ethics pierce through consumers’ mindsets, there is more to a product than aesthetics and quality – positive environmental impact.
Sixty-six percent of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for a product that has a proven sustainable practice that minimizes the environmental impact (McKinsey survey). Compared to older generations, the youth respond positively to these measurements – Gen X – 17 percent, Millennial – 26 percent, Gen Z – 31 percent. Making sustainability count both for the consumer and the organizations is a topic that will lead to successful purchases and launching for both ends if done on a high-level. One of the ways to push the supply chain into realizing this objective is to strengthen the communication with the consumer.
McKinsey Global Institute’s report on Urban World: Cities and the rise of consuming class conducted in 2014 have shown that consumer spending is expected to rise as 1.8 billion people are estimated to join the global consuming class by 2025. With this rise, sustainable production becomes an alternative, if not a replacement, for fast fashion practices in the market. Moving towards a more conscious supply chain, according to CDP’s 2019 report, 43 percent of CDP Supply Chain program members say that they deselect existing suppliers based on their environmental performance. In comparison to 2017’s 23 percent of suppliers respondents reporting their engagement with suppliers on climate change, in 2019, it sees a rise to 35 percent. Despite the progress done in these past few years about raising awareness and commitment of organizations in implementing ethical decisions, the engagement level is still insufficient to solve other sustainability challenges – reports CDP.
«If you are doing something innovative, and responsible but not communicating it properly to the market and consumer, some people would think that you are greenwashing», says Giusy Bettoni, the CEO of C.L.A.S.S., a platform that consults the market and sustainability concept. Founded in 2007, the initiative suggests three steps: Smart Tools, a platform of responsible and traceable materials, technologies and cutting-edge innovations for both production processes and communication, all injecting sustainability into textiles, fashion collections and companies’ performance. Smart Academy the rich program of events, talks, classes and services to educate, raise awareness and inspire professionals, manufacturers, students and all those who strongly believe in sustainable values. At the cross between the two menus is The Smart Shop – the formative and inspirational materials’ bank and samples e-shop for students, designers and brands willing to discover, learn more and test some of the smartest and most sustainable fabrics of the Material Hub.
Putting in the center of C.L.A.S.S. (Creativity Lifestyle and Sustainable Synergy) – design, it offers the three-dimensional approach – creativity, innovation, and responsibility; they have recently launched the fourth dimension – communication. «When you start talking about the value behind the company, for example, the heritage and people who are working for you, about the water reduction and asking third parties to measure it – you can share with the customer that you have diminished the environmental impact. Storytelling and story-making have to go together. You have good companies and products, but they are not selling well because they cannot tell the story with the right values. Communication should be a bit quicker; when you talk to people, the only communication they know is the green words».
Gucci, Levi’s, and TheRealReal recently made a strategic partnership to embrace sustainable, second-hand shopping. Levis allows the customers to bring back their used jeans via SecondHand, providing them with a gift card. At the same time, in collaboration with TheRealReal, Gucci will resell its pieces, thus promoting circularity in luxury fashion. Thanks to the interest of the younger generation in sustainability, brands are changing their business models accordingly. «Consumers are ready to pay more for a vintage than a contemporary one».
Consumer literacy on sustainable matters should be tackled so that transparency and traceability are not the main issues; as Bettoni says, it is the consumer who teaches us (organizations) how to reduce CO2, water waste, or chemicals. «How do you handle internal people, employees, customers, and your suppliers? Sometimes, it is more than telling that you are using organic material, which maybe you do not know where it is coming from». C.L.A.S.S. has a Premiere Collection of Fibers&Yarns that presents materials that come with certifications, for instance, GOTS, G.R.S., OEKO-TEX. Bettoni affirms that the selection of these materials is not solely based on the certificates, but also on the LCA (life-cycle assessment) identity card that comes with it: «It is not about perfection but measuring better. If you are listening to the contemporary consumer’s needs, you also need to measure them differently. Sometimes the consumer is more advanced in sustainability than the market. To define sustainability, you have to know how the company is behaving: the strategy, ethics, and social. The second is – how do you do the product? In the middle, you have a new generation of values that are coming from consumers».
While the garment’s journey begins with fiber, states Bettoni, for C.L.A.S.S.’s, the journey starts with the mindset – design strategy – how long does the yarn, fabric, or garment need to last? According to the article on Traceability of Ready-to-Wear Clothing through Blockchain Technology, high volatility, a short life cycle, low predictability, and high impulse purchase are the characteristics of the fashion sector. Tracing all the operations inside the industry and companies – is another focus addressed during the conversation with Bettoni. «Blockchain is another tool for transparency. We have the company, Sense – immaterial Reality, that is coming from the fabric simulation». The platform introduces the new generation textile catalog that, through the 3D movement of the fabric, tries to show the thickness, lightness, and blow sensitivity, presenting the garment in real settings under different day and night lights. «The Smart Shop is a tool that we dedicate to people who want to start a small business or study. Everything that we have in our material hub we can put it in the smart shop and people can get a sample till 15 meters». By activating innovation and communication, C.L.A.S.S. does not set a goal of selling fabrics but instead educating the consumer to make the right choices by providing practical workshops and a wide selection of materials. At the end of the day, a brand can create a collection without using new fabrics but practicing the ‘back in the loop’.
The majority of the supply chain problems are that «a fabric producer has many values that they communicate to the brands; however, the brands are not ready to tell this story with a new value», shares Bettoni. Retailers do not want to miss sales as there is an increase in consumers’ requests about sustainable fashion. «There is an Italian company called Sinterama; more than six years ago, they made a horizontal partnership with companies that are picking up bottles from consumers. We know where the bottles are coming from, and they transform mechanically in Piemonte, where they are cut into pieces and melt with heat so that you can have a clean product because this plastic is also used for the food industry. In 100 kilometers, you have the supply chain, you know where the bottles are coming from, and the outcome is close to technical silk, more than a polyester», says Bettoni. The two issues standing along the way, in her observations, are the style and the mistrust of the consumer.
«I prefer using the word responsibility to sustainability; it has been so misused. Responsibility means a company, production, and new generation of values level; it is an analytical view of things», states Bettoni. Here comes the educational part of C.L.A.S.S., the SMART Academy; it organizes workshops and classes to provide knowledge on sustainability and ethical practices. To move forward with responsible operations, C.L.A.S.S. has launched an award in October with a jury who will choose finalists on January 12th, 2021. «We have defined this year the C.L.A.S.S. Icon, an award that will give us class for people who are not just using the right values in their collection but also communicate to the consumer. We want to shed light on conscious consumption that is passing through communication».IMAGE GALLERY
CDP is a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states, and regions to manage their environmental impacts. The world’s economy looks to CDP as the gold standard of environmental reporting with the richest and most comprehensive dataset on corporate and city action.
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