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Sustainability is more than a trend in the fashion industry

Originally published by Raymond James.

Sustainability is making its way into the fashion industry, with documentaries like The True Cost delving deep into this glittery world, especially fast fashion. When talking about sustainability in fashion, the industry is encompassing everything from packaging to tracing the supply chain for complete transparency, to sourcing eco-friendly materials and increased diversity, equity and inclusion at every rung on the corporate ladder.

Stamps of approval

Many companies are embracing external certifications to keep them honest. Benefit Corporation® (B-Corp®) certification requires companies to go through a rigorous process, holding them to performance standards in the social and environmental responsibility arenas, and requiring them to change their legal structure to be accountable to all stakeholders – workers, communities, customers, suppliers, and the environment. Some big names you might recognize are athleisure brand Athleta from the Gap, contemporary brand Eileen Fisher, shoe brand Allbirds, and runway brand Chloe, one of the first luxury designers to undertake this intense certification.


Blockchain is still in its infancy in the fashion industry. Typically associated with Bitcoin or cryptocurrency, this technology efficiently tracks the origin of clothing, as well as safety and sustainability along every part of the supply chain from dyes used to working conditions of those who created the clothing. It can even track shipping and packaging all the way to your door or to a store. Each step or process can be tagged so that a consumer can simply scan the label to see more information.

The juggernauts in this space are luxury behemoths LVMH, Cartier and Prada. They formed a consortium called AURA that is committed to track and trace every part of the fashion industry, beginning with raw materials and finishing at point of sale. Not overlooked is the ability to reduce counterfeit goods with blockchain as well, which shores up brand presence and cements their hold in their respective categories.

Direct-to-consumer reduce, reuse, recycle

Many brands are circumventing the eBay and Real Real’s of the world to make used clothing and goods available for sale on their own sites. It’s a win-win for the company and consumers. The brand gets to showcase its commitment to sustainability as well as control secondhand sale of its goods, and consumers know that the items are authenticated by the company. Brands large and small are doing this from Coclico, a small artisan shoe brand, to Mara Hoffman, a mid-range contemporary women’s apparel company.

Earth as shareholder

Of course, the biggest move in this area in the history of sustainability is Patagonia, whose CEO recently signed over the entire company and its profits to one shareholder: Planet Earth. Organized through a trust structure, this unique take may be a harbinger of strategies to come.

Next steps

  • Consider that next purchase – do you have to have it new, or would secondhand work?
  • Review your investments with your advisor – are there ways to screen for sustainable investments that match your values?
  • Learn about the brands you buy before purchasing – most fashion companies dedicated to transparency will tout their efforts publicly.



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