Brands need to choose one sustainability goal and stick with it

By: Katherine Albertson

“Sustainability is a moving target.” That is what Jesse Daystar, the VP and CSO of Cotton Incorporated, said during a webinar in December 2020. He’s right. The concept of sustainability is evolving as we learn more about the subject and its meaning in the fashion industry. That is why it is impossible for any one brand — no matter how big, powerful, or rich it is — to be perfectly sustainable.

The 2020 Circular Fashion Summit Report estimated that the current fashion industry is worth $3 trillion. It seems to have 3 trillion problems as well. Garment workers are not paid enough, textile waste is polluting our land and oceans, clothing dye is ruining our limited freshwater sources, greenhouse gas emissions from material production to product shipping is causing climate change that is directly responsible for the destruction of our homes, and on this list could go. There is no way that one brand could solve all these issues, and they shouldn’t try to either.

In this $3 trillion industry are ten of thousands of brands. Image what would happen if each brand focused on addressing one issue and devoted all their time, money, and resources to it? Consumers would have more choices and be able to find a brand that addresses their specific concerns. Greenwashing would be less prevalent as brands could provide more detailed transparency on one subject rather than surface-level transparency on multiple matters. And perfect sustainability would be possible.

As Jesse Daystar said best, sustainability is a moving target; to keep up with it, brands need to choose one sustainability goal and stick with it.