Fashion footprint: Farfetch’s new tool to highlight the environmental impact of clothing

The secondhand luxury fashion market is currently worth $24bn and is growing more rapidly than the primary luxury fashion market

Called “fashion footprint”, the tool does not label the carbon, waste or water footprints of each individual product – rather, it provides an overview of whether the materials and processes used to produce garments, shoes and accessories are low-impact.

The tool, when used on pre-owned items, will also tell users about the negative environmental impacts they will mitigate in comparison to buying now, in general terms.

In order to collect data for the tool, Farfetch collaborated with the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB), software firm ICARO and consultancy QSA Partners to research secondhand shopping habits in fashion, as well as calculating the average environmental footprint of popular fashion items.

Of particular interest to the researchers was whether those who purchase secondhand fashion typically do so to “displace” a new purchase (i.e. they buy one secondhand item instead of a new one, as opposed to consuming more overall). In a survey of 3,000 consumers across the UK, US and China, more than half (57%) said that this was the case. This means that the average purchase of a secondhand item mitigates one kilogram of waste and 22kg of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The same survey revealed that the majority of people who choose secondhand fashion are not doing so because their top concern is reducing the environmental impact of their wardrobes. Just 13% cited environmental concerns as their key driver, compared to the 42% who cited lower prices and the 30% who are seeking rare items.

Farfertch’s chief commercial and sustainability officer, Giorgio Belloli, said the business is hoping to become a “source for data and tools in the circular space”, as well as an online retail platform. As such, the results of the research have been made publicly available.

Farfetch first announced it was working with LWARB and QSA Partners last May, as part of a broader initiative co-founded by C&A’s charitable arm. Called “Circular Fashion Fast Forward”, the project is also collaborating with Ted Baker and FW.

Go fetch

Farfetch launched its first sustainability strategy in 2018 and the framework consists of four key pillars: Positively Cleaner (cutting emissions, reducing plastic waste, and so on); Positively Conscious (being transparent around the environmental, social and animal impacts of brands and products); Positively Circular (designing waste out of fashion) and Positively Changing (supporting innovative startups and offering green micro-loans to shoppers).

Fashion footprint clearly contributes to both the second and the third of these ambitions.

Since the strategy, entitled ‘Positively Farfetch’, was launched, the business has made several other key changes around the circular economy piece. It launched ‘Second Life’, a resale platform for designer handbags, last May, and the service has received growing support ever since. A donation platform, run in collaboration with Thrift Plus, has also been established, enabling customers to earn store credit and make charitable donations from the sale of their used clothing.

More broadly, Farfetch is a signatory of the Fashion Pact, an industry pledge headlined by goals to eliminate net GHG emissions by 2050 and plastic packaging by 2030. The Pact is coordinated by Kering and has been signed by more than 50 other companies, collectively covering more than 250 brands.

Sarah George

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