Developing a sustainability roadmap
You will not be able to do everything at once, especially in the beginning of your business journey. Your business will have many moving parts and you will need to work with a whole host of other people and companies that have their own priorities and ways of working. Your sustainability roadmap will be a living document and it will evolve over time.
What is your sustainability vision?
Think about the values you already decided were most important to you. These will help you focus your business goals and activities. Start by setting out your big vision of what you want to achieve with your fashion business. Be aspirational but realistic. You will develop your roadmap backwards from your vision.
Los Angeles based brand Reformation sets out their vision: “It is our goal to raise awareness around the impact fashion has on the environment and at the same time offer sustainable solutions and choices. It is our mission to lead and inspire a sustainable way to be fashionable.” Everything the business does stems from this bigger goal and mission - from the design of their products to the materials they use to how they communicate to their customers. Read more about Reformation’s sustainability goals.
What is your vision? What kind of fashion business do you want to be?
In which areas can you have a positive impact?
Identify the three to five key areas where you think you can have the greatest chance to have a positive social and environmental impact. It will depend largely on what your fashion business does. Could you focus on the materials you use? Can you have a big impact by working with certain producers and factories? Can you design your products more sustainably? Are you interested in raising awareness amongst your customers? This will determine the particular strategies and activities you undertake related to sustainability. Put a timeframe on your goals and your strategies to achieve them. What issues do you want to be working on in the first year, in three years, in five? What will you want to achieve in that timeframe?
Who are your key stakeholders?
You will not be able to do everything alone. You will need to work with business partners, suppliers and your customers to achieve your sustainability vision. Identify the key stakeholders who you will need to engage in your sustainability efforts. Think about what each stakeholder cares about and how much influence they wield in helping you achieve your vision as a sustainable fashion business.
What sustainability strategies will help you achieve your vision?
Now that you know what general areas you want to focus on and who you will need to involve in your sustainability efforts, it is time to hone in on specific strategies that will enable you to work in a more sustainable way. For example, if you have decided you will focus on the sustainability of the materials you use, what does this mean you will do? Your strategy could be that you choose to source only sustainably-made materials wherever possible.
What activities will support your strategies?
Next you will need to think about what specific activities will support your strategies. In the above example, you will be looking to use sustainably-made materials, but what will that mean in practice? Perhaps you will only use certified organic cotton or you might look for recycled materials or something handcrafted and naturally dyed. Your activities are likely to change or expand over time as you figure out what works best for your business.
How will you measure your efforts and understand your impacts?
Finally, you will need to think about how you will determine whether you are making progress on your sustainability roadmap. There is no point setting a goal if you have no way to measure your success. If you decided you are going to source certified organic cotton, for example, what percentage of the materials you ended up using are truly organic? Can you increase the percentage of sustainable fabrics you source in future collections? Put some numbers to your goals and activities and then regularly check in to see if you are measuring up to your plan.
See some examples of sustainability roadmaps in the fashion industry:
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