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Sustainable fashion: Should you be taking steps to make your online store more ethical?

online-sellerSustainable fashion: Should you be taking steps to make your online store more ethical?
Over the last few years a greater awareness of the perils of climate change and the impact of the fashion industry on the environment has seen sustainability become a key issue for many consumers.

According to research from online marketplace OnBuy, 57% of Londoners are willing to spend more for sustainable clothing and the number is steady rising as consumers become increasingly switched on to environmental and ethical concerns.

What is sustainable fashion?

At its core, the idea behind sustainable fashion is to make sure the global textile industry is more ‘green’ and ‘ethical’, by making sure it doesn’t take away more than it gives back.

The main focus for sustainability is, of course, the environment, and ensuring the fashion industry isn’t causing lasting damage to our eco-system. 

However, it’s not just about the environmental impact, improving working conditions in the textile industry is also a vital part of sustainable fashion. Making sure everyone in the supply chain has a safe-working environment and receives reasonable pay should be paramount for textile companies.

The importance of sustainability in the fashion industry

The fashion industry accounts for roughly 10% of global carbon emissions. That’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

On top of this 20% of industrial water pollution worldwide is connected to the garment industry. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates it takes 3,781 litres of water to grow, dye, and process the cotton for a single pair of jeans.

The fashion industry’s impact on the environment has been exacerbated by the prevalence of fast fashion, with the market being flooded by a dizzying number of low-cost garments every week. It’s estimated that somewhere between 80 and 100 billion pieces of clothing are now produced each year, double that of 2000.

The incredibly fast turnover of the fashion industry is not only taking its toll on the environment but is having a major economic impact as well, with a reported $500 billion lost each year due to clothing that is barely worn, not donated, recycled, or ends up in a landfill.

Sourcing sustainable items for your online store

Fortunately anyone looking to make their store more ethical and eco-friendly will find it easier than ever in 2020 as an increasing number of brands seek to pick up the torch of sustainability.

That being said, brands seeking to make fashion more sustainable are still in the minority and you will need to be vigilant in ensuring they actually practice what they preach.

Attending trade shows which specialise in sustainable clothing is a great way to make contact with brands which share an ethical approach to fashion and uncover possible options for stocking your online store.

If your store designs and produces its own clothing line then you can look at how you are sourcing your fabrics and shop around if you feel your current supplier doesn’t meet your personal standard for sustainability.

Remember that sustainable fashion is not about chasing the latest fads, your products will be worn for a long time so it’s sensible for your items to reflect classic and timeless styles that you customers will be comfortable wearing for more than a single season.

Marketing your sustainable fashion store

When it comes to marketing you sustainable fashion store don’t bury the lead, your eco-credentials and ethics are one of your biggest selling points so be sure to emphasise them as much as possible (without being too overbearing!).

<35s are generally more switched on about sustainability so these will likely be your primary target audience which it comes to marketing.

Subsequently, promote your store on the social media channels like Instagram and TikTok, and make liberal use of hashtags such as #ethicalfashion and #fairtradefashion. 

Finally, academic research suggests there are major gender stereotypes when it comes to sustainable clothing, with a ‘prevalent association between green behaviour and femininity’, suggesting you will need to make a more conscious effort to promote a gender neutral bias in your marketing if you want to appeal to the broadest possible market.


Sustainable shipping

The final leg of a product’s journey to the customer is also important to consider in terms of sustainability.

While some couriers are starting to offer eco-friendly delivery options, this is still in its infancy and sometime you’ll have no choice but to use traditional services to ensure your customers receive their items in a timely manner.

In this case you may want to think about exploring carbon offsetting, potentially offering the option for customers to pay a little more for delivery to compensate for any delivery emissions.

You also need to pay attention to the packaging you’ll be shipping your products in. Items arriving in a mountain of plastic and bubble wrap are certainty going to undermine your message of sustainability.

Ideally you want to cut down on the total packaging, but failing this look to use recyclable packaging wherever possible.

Sustainable fashion is more than a passing trend or fad, and stores embracing the idea now will be well positioned once the concept goes truly mainstream.
Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct is one of Europe's leading non-bank providers of currency exchange and international payment services. Since we were formed in 1996, we've maintained our focus on providing innovative foreign exchange and international currency transfer services to corporations of all sizes, online sellers and private individuals. We have also expanded our services to provide dynamic and pioneering "business to business" solutions to help companies, tier 2/3 banks and other non-bank financial institutions to process their international payments. Our headquarters are in the City of London (United Kingdom) and we have operations in continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Currencies Direct is jointly owned by private equity firms Palamon Capital Partners and Corsair Capital.

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