Sustainable fashion: Depop targets climate neutrality by the end of the year

Marketplace app Depop, best known for second-hand and custom fashion, has pledged to compensate for its entire climate footprint by the end of 2021 and to do more to prevent waste.

Depop has more than 26 million users, and 90% of them are aged 24 or under. Image: Depop

Depop has more than 26 million users, and 90% of them are aged 24 or under. Image: Depop

The company has today (28 January) published a new two-year plan with the tagline: “fashion for a better future”. Its three central themes are climate actions, the circular economy and education.

On the first point, the plan includes a commitment to achieve climate neutrality by the end of 2021. Depop already measures emissions generated through the shipping of products sold and purchased on the app and said it will extend its carbon accounting to get a better idea of its true climate footprint. It will then work to strategically reduce emissions from hotspots, while purchasing carbon credits equivalent to its footprint.

Depop has also committed to taking a “systematic preference” for brands with strong circular economy credentials and responsible sourcing processes when signing collaboration agreements. Brands to have collaborated with the app in the past include Selfridges, Vans, Anna Sui and Raeburn.

As for the third pillar, Depop has committed to producing educational resources and facilitating mentorships for sellers from under-represented groups. It has not provided details of a timeline yet, or information on how to access these opportunities, but claims that all education will be centred around growing a business in a way that is environmentally and socially sustainable.

“While Depop’s plan provides clarity on Depop’s actions for the immediate future, this initiative is intentionally designed to progress, iterate and serve as the starting foundation for the company’s continued sustainability journey,” the company said in a statement. In the longer-term, Depop has expressed an interest in fully aligning its strategy with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reporting progress against the targets detailed in this global framework.

"As we compiled our commitments, we researched industry best practices and consulted our community to better understand their expectations from us,” Depop’s head of sustainability Justine Porterie said.

“Our goal with these initial commitments is to define a baseline for what sustainability means for Depop beyond second hand and inspire others within and outside our platform to adopt more circular practices. We believe that a more sustainable life can be a rewarding journey and want to act as a gateway for it - that's the future of fashion.”

All change

Porterie was appointed as Depop’s first head of sustainability in 2020, having previously worked for the company on a freelance basis. She previously served as chief executive at Outstand, a pre-loved fashion resale platform that she founded in 2019 but has spent the bulk of her career in corporate sustainability, having held positions at Unilever and PwC.

Depop admitted in a statement that the events of 2020 had prompted senior decision-makers to rethink their approach. Lockdown restrictions in many nations forced traditional fashion retailers and charity shops to close stores and, as a result, consumers mainly chose between online shopping with small or second-hand retailers or opted for fast fashion firms with a strong online presence. On the latter, Boohoo’s sales were up 40% year-on-year despite scrutiny of its human rights practices in supply chains.

Another major focus area for Depop in 2020 was the Black Lives Matter movement. The company’s US arm donated $20,000 raised through seller fees to the NAACP Legal Defence and Education fund and a further $10,000 raised in this way to other charitable and community organisations working on racial equality and justice. Depop also apologised over accusations that not enough BIPOC sellers were being spotlighted via features like the “explore” and “style edit” pages and pledged to better support sellers from these communities.

“If the past year has taught us anything it’s that big changes are needed and the time for action is now,” Depop’s chief executive Maria Raga said. “We believe in a new fashion system that’s actively kind, respectful and responsible.”

Sarah George



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