Of course, CO2 emissions are just one part of the picture when it comes to fashion’s impact on the planet. “We want you to know that we’re thinking 100 per cent about every step of how that piece of clothing came to be in your possession has been considered,” says Caroline Smithson, founder of slow-fashion label Ssōne, which includes the eco-credentials of its materials, along with how the garment has been manufactured, on its labels.
To provide this holistic information, Lab 2030 is calling for a traffic-light system for fashion, which would cover areas such as materials, manufacturing, garment footprint and impact. “A traffic-light system, similar to what we have for food, would be a really good way of universally understanding what it is that we’re buying,” Muter-Hamilton adds.
The need for a standardised system
While a traffic-light system could simplify a garment’s credentials for consumers, the challenge is to establish a standardised system that would work across the entire industry. “The standardisation part is difficult because you need companies to allow you to access data and information about their supply chains, or work with them to actually collect that data in the first place,” Muter-Hamilton says. “We don’t have as much data as other industries because our supply chains aren’t straightforward.”
Getting companies on board who aren’t so keen to reveal their environmental impact is another major hurdle, which is why regulation within the industry will likely be required for a truly effective, standardised system to take hold across the industry. “There’s a need for this because I still can’t answer the question that initially drove me,” Muter-Hamilton concludes. “‘How do I know what I’m [actually] buying?’”