Two thirds (66%) of UK retailers believe it will take their business three years or more to achieve true sustainability, a major study of retailers’ views on sustainability has revealed.
Of 1,896 national and independent retailers that took part in the study, 73% said they had made changes to their operations to become more sustainable, but they were realistic that total sustainability was still out of reach.
In the study, conducted by Pure London, and Spring and Autumn Fair – three of the largest events in the retail industry’s calendar – UK retailers hoped to increase the percentage of their products that are sustainable by 33% on average by the end of next year. For fashion retailers this goes up to 40%, a seven percent increase on the wider retail industry.
Sustainability has rocketed up the retail agenda in recent years, as brands and retailers come under mounting pressure to reduce their impact on the environment.
Julie Driscoll, UK Regional Director for ITE Group, organisers of Pure London and Spring & Autumn Fair, said: “Our study confirms that the UK retail industry is passionate about taking action on sustainability. However, there are significant barriers to overcome. To achieve true sustainability takes significant resource, time and investment, arguably, it’s a continuous process for improvement, rather than a destination. Retailers aren’t shying away from that responsibility, but they are being realistic when it comes to how quickly the change can happen.
“Through the launch of the Power of One campaign at both Pure London and Spring Fair last year, ITE Group has committed to driving small, individual yet powerful, steps towards a sustainable future, by giving others the power to speak up and to focus on long term changes in the retail and fashion industries. It’s clear that retailers are changing. Our study found 73% have improved their recycling or reuse efforts, and that 54% have reduced the use of environmentally damaging materials in products.”
In the study, respondents estimated that to make their products sustainable they would have to increase retail prices by 19% on average. In contrast, they estimate consumers would only be willing to pay 9% more for those sustainable products. 20% believed the failure of suppliers to act sustainably or transparently was the biggest challenge.
When asked about the most important reason for sustainable behaviour, 80% of retail businesses stated it was the future of the planet, above brand image (6%), economic prosperity (6%), increased business productivity, reduced costs and greater regulatory compliance.
Senior FTA Lecturer, Jo Price took her current cohort of apprentices to the recent addition of Pure London. She said: “It was a great opportunity for the apprentices to attend Pure London. We all attended a talk by Unique Style Platform that gave us four trend predictions for Spring/Summer 2020, which were Honest, Limitless, Ritual and Brave. The trends focused on lifestyle, what’s trending on social media as well as political and environmental influences and all had ideas for styling and detail and their own colour charts. Many of the apprentices had a walk round looking at the collections displayed and attended other talks including colour predictions by Pantone and debates on making the industry more sustainable. The information gathered will be used to investigate markets, materials and styles unit and I am very much looking forward to seeing the outcomes.”
CEO Jenny Holloway believes attending trade events like this is crucial to give our apprentices an idea of what the ‘real’ fashion market is like. This is what distinguishes Fashion Enter / FTA from other fashion apprenticeships.
“One of the salient areas Ofsted noted was the deep dive we undertake with industry practices and industrial standards. We pride ourselves on continually being up to date in ethical and sustainability with garment manufacturing and it’s therefore important all of our learners know exactly what employers’ expectations are.”
The latest edition of Pure London took place from the 21st – 23rd July, filling Olympia London with over 700 international brands and designers showcasing SS20 womenswear, menswear, youth and kid’s collections, and a host of new trends.
The UK’s leading Festival of Fashion, Pure London takes place at Olympia London, and the AW20/21 edition will run from 9th – 11th February 2020. Visitwww.purelondon.com
Autumn Fair, the season’s number one sourcing destination for home and gift retail, takes place between 1-4 September at Birmingham’s NEC. Visit www.autumnfair.com