The Sustainable Angle presents at the Ethical Fashion Forum Source Summit

Written by Charlotte Turner

On 25th July the Ethical Fashion Forum hosted the Source Summit in London, to enable Source members from all stages of the supply chain to network and share knowledge, thoughts and ideas about the latest in social and environmental development in the fashion industry. The day was underpinned by an inspiring program of presentations from industry leaders including EFF Founding Director Clare Lissaman, and international researchers, educators and entrepreneurs. The event focused on discussing impact, visibility, education and systems, culminating in a series of breakout groups.

EFF Managing Director Tamsin Lejeune opened the event by stating that ‘in order to run a business effectively we have to run it sustainably’ which set the theme for the day, introducing speakers from international sustainable fashion brands.

Prama Bhardwaj from Mantis World gave an inspiring talk, discussing the triple bottom line: people, profit and planet. She gave some fantastic recommendations to achieve this, including her key piece of advice, to pick your battles. Prama’s recommendations to achieve triple bottom line success:

  1. Know your supply chain
  • be informed
  • know the risks
  • make responsible commercial decisions if things don’t go right
  • communicate
  • Ethical should be a given
  • make the product fantastic, desirable and affordable, focusing on great design and function – the product must benefit the consumer as well as the producer
  1. Follow the 3 Ps
  • Prioritise
  • be Patient
  • be Persistent

Alana James then discussed her research into mainstreaming sustainability in the fashion sector, having found that consumers rate clothing primarily by aesthetics, followed by materials which are felt to reflect quality and value, and lastly by price. Although 30% of consumers are said to have ethical intentions when shopping, only 3% actually carry this through in their shopping choices, which is something the high street has the power to influence.

Perhaps the most poignant presentation came from Liz Parker who discussed the importance of sustainability in the educational curriculum, in order to facilitate change throughout the industry. She argued that students should be thought of like consumers, as sustainability is values based and therefore can’t be forced upon people. For this reason encouraging critical thinking is vital.

Following the inspiring presentations, the breakout groups to further discuss specific themes resulted in a multitude of positive ideas for the future including:

  • the fashion industry should work towards bringing in legislation to ensure the textiles industry are held accountable for their waste
  • brands should collaborate more, with larger brands leading the way to deliver a more standardized understandable way to communicate inspirationally with consumers about ethical and environmental sustainability
  • language about ethical and environmental sustainability should change, promoting positive stories and messages, and not weighing consumers down with guilt

Overall, a resounding conversation throughout the day was the fact that in an ideal world we wouldn’t talk about ‘ethical fashion’, just ‘fashion’. Sustainable marketing specialist Ceri Heathcote from Ethical Fashion Blog observed that ‘for sustainable change we need to change the way things are at an identity level – who we are, what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.’ In order to do this, it’s up to each designer, buyer and fashion professional to evaluate what sustainability means to them.

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