While this may be a small proportion of the UK’s total emissions, the fashion sector plays a key role in reducing the UK’s overall emissions. The country is rapidly transiting to a clean energy system and is already half way to meeting its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050. In the current economic and environmental climate, there is a clear imperative for fashion brands to take action. Some founders believe that green strategies will be costly for their business.
However, there are many ways in which companies can save money across both the shorter and longer-term. Adopting energy efficiency measures and renewable technology will reduce reliance on increasingly expensive, and, potentially, unreliable energy supply. Additionally, implementing sustainable strategies will enable fashion companies to attract new investment from green investors.
For fashion brands, there are several crucial considerations and simple steps to take when switching to green.
Work Out the Company’s Carbon Footprint
There are various tools that can help calculate the brand’s carbon footprint, like Julie’s Bicycle. Carrying out an audit of the business will give a picture of its environmental impact and identify the areas in which the brand can make the biggest difference.
Several organisations also can help. For example, in London, the London Development Agency (LDA) and the Greater London Authority (GLA) have supported schemes like the Green500 which are designed to help businesses within London reduce their environmental impact.
Create an Environmental Policy and Plan to Manage and Reduce your Impact
Keep accurate records of the company’s energy use (e.g. bills) to monitor improvements – to do this a new system may need to be established or, if not, just use existing records and accounts.
Often a brand will be able to pay back any initial investment in new technology through financial savings made from reduced energy and travel bills. Relate capital expenditure to savings so you can track this “pay back” over time.
Make sure the whole organisation no matter how small or large – all directors and staff – is on board and allocate responsibilities for your green plans.
An Environment Team
For larger companies, establish an environment team and a network of champions in the company with regular reviews and action planning. Provide staff training, update staff on progress and provide incentives for further progress – make sure everyone understands they have a role to play.
Communicate progress to suppliers, contractors, clients and audiences. This builds awareness as well as promoting the brand’s green credentials.
It could be useful to develop partnerships with other neighbouring organisations (perhaps if you are working in a building containing other studios) to address many of these recommendations, for example buying more eco-friendly lighting items, photocopying paper, and so on, in bulk, could be usefully shared by a broader group of companies within one building.
Reducing Energy Use in Buildings
Energy use in buildings accounts for nearly a half of a company’s carbon footprint. Yet, several measures can reduce this, ranging from simple efficiency measures to investment in renewable energy.
Recommendations suggested here are tailored to specific building types – studios, office space and working from home. In some cases, there is funding available to help companies pay for these changes.
Reducing Energy Use in Home Studios or Working from Home
Many brands, especially emerging ones, are based in the designer’s home. However, most of the advice given here will be relevant to a home space too, particularly insulating, updating boilers and lightbulbs and making the most of daylight.
The Feed-In Tariff supports installation of renewable energy into homes as well as organisations. London’s RE:NEW programme also aims to support the retrofit of homes across London with energy and water efficiency measures.
Where to Reduce Energy Use
If a company is based in an office or studio or if a studio is home-based, office and studio managers, green teams and designers need to think about the following:
Factors to consider:
- Heating, cooling and ventilation.
- Make a plan.
- Involve everyone.
- Communicate progress to suppliers, contractors, clients and audiences.
- For larger companies, establish an environment team and a network of champions in the company with regular reviews and action planning.
- Find solutions that are tailored to your specific building type – studios, office space, and working from home.
- Investigate whether there is any funding available to contribute to making a workspace more energy efficient.
Switching to green business practices not only benefit the environment but bring businesses significant financial savings and can often be funded by government grants. Founders can draw up a simple plan for their company and make sure all the team understand and are involved.
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Continental Clothing Co.