ENGAGE: Driving fashion towards a sustainable future through collaboration

For edie’s ENGAGEMENT Week, Shaun Packe, chief operating officer at Superdry explores how a new collaborative partnership with Formula E is helping to engage the public on how they can switch to more sustainable clothing.

ENGAGE: Driving fashion towards a sustainable future through collaboration

Credits: Superdry/Envision Racing

Dirty, polluting and transitory. Fashion and motor sport racing face some of the same criticisms when it comes to sustainability. But both industries also acknowledge we can’t go on like this and are looking to find solutions.

That’s why Superdry and Envision Racing, the current World Champions in Formula E, have come together to demonstrate the similarities between us in trying to set a new standard for sustainability and style. Superdry will be providing Envision Racing with its team kit in a multi-year partnership. Together, we want to be the change we want to see – and that consumers want to see too.

By wearing and living our values, it also allows us to recognise that these values are shared among the people who love our products. That’s why Envision Racing is not only showcasing Superdry products, we are creating a joint sustainability pledge, with a clear call to action for our customers.

The fashion industry has started to show that it cares about sustainability. But, as the campaign organisation WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme)’s annual progress report suggests, we’re not going far enough. In November, WRAP showed that the decreasing carbon impact of textiles had been almost completely cancelled out by increases in production and consumption, and that there has been an overall increase in the industry’s water usage.

At Superdry, we are proud to be ahead of our own goals. Previously we had a target to make 65% of what we produce from low impact, organic or recycled material. Now we’re on track to make 70% by the end of this year and are working to independently approved science-based targets. We’re highlighting this, not to preach, but to inspire others to go further. Superdry are committed to sustainability because we want to do the right thing – it’s not just about us trying to make a difference to our company, but a more general call to the industry in general.

Superdry are supplying the Envision Racing team with a kit predominantly made from sustainable materials. This uses a fabric we hope will soon be synonymous with Superdry: organic cotton. We all know cotton is one of the most wasteful fabrics in terms of water use. That’s why our primary focus has been on enabling farmers to grow the material organically. Starting in 2018, we committed to supporting 20,000 farmers to implement the best organic farming practices by 2025, enough to meet all our cotton requirements.

We’re also very excited by the potential we’re seeing with reused materials. As one example, the Envision Racing kit features gilets with recycled liners. I’ve been to the plants in China where bottles are recycled into fabric, and it doesn’t really cost any more money than less environmentally friendly alternatives. It’s just a bit more hassle: you’ve got to go out to the production plants, make sure the recycling really is happening and link up all the parts of your supply chain to buy the product from certain approved sources.

We, as an industry, must hold fast to our sustainability commitments. As with the recycled liners, it’s not always about price, it’s about attitude and whether you’re willing to work with your whole supply chain to create change.

At Superdry, we also believe there is a genuine consumer demand for a more environmentally friendly approach to what we wear. Just look at Formula E, the first global sports organisation to align with international standards on contributing to carbon neutrality: it has grown to be watched by 411 million people in only 5 years, which is already half the audience of the behemoth that is Formula 1. We also see this reflected in our staff. Sustainability is now part of the Superdry DNA. Embedding our environmental values was an easy thing to do because everyone in the business wants to do the right thing.

This is a partnership that we hope shows the fashion industry that it can and should be doing more. We’ve been in touch with lots of other brands and retailers to talk about our journey to this point and encourage change. This is one step along that path. In the meantime, I’m excited to go and see Envision Racing on the track. As to whether they’ll let me in the car – we’ll see on the day!

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