Being more competitive is the reason that moves 57.7% of companies to make make investments towards increasingly sustainable paths – as emerges from the Report Moda e Sostenibilità 2022 by Cikis, a consultancy company specialising in sustainability. Competitiveness is inevitably linked to market demands: growing consumer awareness of ethical and green choices is, in fact, reason enough to choose to invest for 32% of companies. For one company in ten, on the other hand, the need to be competitive is linked to the optimisation of production processes, demonstrating that there is a strong link between sustainability, efficiency and economic benefits.
In any case, what is taking place is a process of growth and interest in sustainable practices and, as Serena Moro, Founder of Cikis, states, 'today in Italy 99% of fashion companies invest in sustainability or intend to do so, confirming that a green turn is increasingly in demand and appreciated: already last year 89% of companies were investing in sustainability, a good 45% more than in 2020'.
But the concept of sustainability and attention to the environment is moving out of companies, increasingly becoming a global trend and involving many other sectors, including the exhibition industry. The first confirmations in this regard come from the report released by UFI – the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry: as many as 7 out of 10 exhibitors (73% of the total) state that their company is taking measures to increase its sustainability rate. Furthermore, 73% of exhibitors and visitors agree that it is important for a trade fair to show a strong focus on environmental protection. At the same time, 34% of exhibitors and 36% of visitors say that they would not participate in a trade fair that did not demonstrate a purely sustainable approach. And again, 58% of exhibitors and visitors believe that improving the environmental impact of trade fairs will become increasingly important for the long-term success of the industry.
The fashion industry, according to Fashion on Climate, must act systemically along the entire supply chain. For example, a partial awareness of the importance of the choice of materials is beginning to emerge: 48% of companies stated that they have introduced or increased the use of preferred materials, i.e. materials with a reduced environmental impact or that protect social rights. Only 16.8% of these, however, integrated them for more than 75% of the total collection. 47.4%, on the other hand, introduced them for less than 25%. The same approach in terms of materials, fittings and zero-impact designs is being taken by the trade fair sector and, finally, more and more partners are offering eco-friendly solutions. Major international events are adapting to this new trend and in Italy too, trade fair organisers, exhibitors, professionals and even visitors are starting to pay more and more attention to ethical and environmental issues. On an operational level, constructions will be made using environmentally sustainable materials and the hope is that the future of trade fairs will be increasingly sustainable. Every aspect must be taken care of to ensure that all events have a minimal impact on the environment.
Returning to fashion companies – again according to the Cikis Report – the importance of the circular economy still seems to be little felt, cited as a priority by only 7.4% of the companies, a percentage that invests in second-hand systems, repair or circular design. Very few companies (2%) also invest in emission offsetting. When it comes to worker protection and corporate welfare, on the other hand, sensitivity is on the rise: investments in social issues in the fashion world rise to 40%, an increase of 66.7% compared to 2021. A negative note, however, is that most of the people who make clothes in various parts of the world still do not earn a decent wage. Working hours are gruelling, environments are not always healthy and child labour is still legal in many countries. Therefore, brands strive to be more and more aware of where their raw materials come from and by whom their finished products are packaged. And for this reason, the issue of traceability is becoming predominant within the larger concept of sustainability.
The number of companies that can boast an advanced level of sustainability is falling, about -15%. Among the companies that invest in sustainability, far fewer are truly aware of which practices, if implemented, have an important bearing on environmental and social impact. Changing packaging and sorting waste in offices, for example, is not enough to classify oneself at an advanced level of sustainability. Thus, we find ourselves in a complex and, at times, unbalanced situation: on the one hand, the virtuous example of large companies, which record a higher percentage of relevant practices. The reason is simple: due to greater financial availability and much more complex supply chains, there is a dedicated sustainable transition team in these companies, capable of managing more sustainable practices and more effectively. On the other hand, the number of companies that are at a basic or intermediate level is increasing and the gap between those who are more aware of what it really means to be sustainable and those who are only taking the first steps is widening. For these latter companies, the risk of greenwashing increases, due to an overestimation of the relevance of the practices implemented or the scarcity of funds to invest in the immediate future.
But investing in sustainability pays off because soon the companies that will survive will be the green ones, predisposed to using sustainable technologies and methods. The very possibility of being able to access certain funds and investments will depend on the degree of sustainability demonstrated by the company, while the others will inevitably be left out. The world is evolving and leads us to have to adopt different solutions, change mindsets and approaches, see all things from the perspective of sustainability and act concretely in that direction.