Fashion’s impact on the environment has remained a hot topic over the last five years, and brands across categories have made plans, commitments and goals outlining all the ways in which they will be more sustainable in the future. At a 2017 fashion summit in Copenhagen, 90 brands made commitments with Global Fashion Agenda to hit certain sustainability milestones by 2020.
But no matter how ambitious a plan, pledge or pact is, it’s nothing if the brands don’t back it up. And some experts in the sustainable fashion space are not confident brands can follow through on their plans based on what they’ve seen.
“It’s hard to answer this without sounding negative, but I’m not sure that [most 2020 goals will be met],” said Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder and CEO of Positive Luxury, an organization promoting sustainability within luxury fashion. “As of July 2019, all of the signatories to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit’s Circular Fashion System Commitment had only reached 21% of their targets set in 2017. It is encouraging to see industry leaders taking on these commitments, but speed is a must.”
Despite being the poster child for what many consider to be the harmful effects of fast fashion, H&M has actually done quite well in meeting or nearly meeting its 2020 goals. The company has already reached a goal set in 2017 to have 40% to 60% of all recollected clothes in-store either resold or recycled into new clothes before the stated deadline of 2020, but some other goals are still in the works.
Another goal was to have 100% of all cotton used by the company be sourced sustainably. It’s close to achieving the goal.
“We are almost there,” an H&M spokesperson said when asked about the company’s 2020 sustainability goals. “In 2018, H&M Group sourced 95% of cotton in a more sustainable way, and we are confident that by 2020, all of our cotton will be sourced in a more sustainable way.”
Adidas stood out among sneaker brands this year for the concrete progress it made in sustainability. In addition to the introduction of the Futurecraft Loop, a sneaker made to be recycled and reworked into an infinite amount of new sneakers with the same materials, the company has also already partially accomplished one of its 2020 goals.
In 2017, Adidas pledged that by 2020 it would have a “digitally-supported reclaim initiative” rolled out in key markets around the world. That program, which is now called Infinite Play, was indeed launched this year, but so far it’s only in the U.K. Adidas has far larger and more influential markets around the world to which it will have to expand Infinite Play to truly achieve that goal.
Still, the program is in place, and Adidas is pleased with its progress so far.
“We take the product and repair it and resell it, or recycle it if we can’t,” said Alexis Haass, Adidas’ head of sustainability. “It’s about training the customer to understand that their product’s life does not have to end when they’re done with it. It can live on, in some way.“