Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2017

The Pulse Report was co-developed with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm and one of the world’s leading advisor on business strategy, and Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the coalition that has developed the Higg Index, a suite of tools that standardises value chain sustainability measurement for all industry participants.

The Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2018 – Full Report  

The Pulse Report was co-developed with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm and one of the world’s leading advisor on business strategy, and Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the coalition that has developed the Higg Index, a suite of tools that standardises value chain sustainability measurement for all industry participants.

 

The fashion industry has a clear opportunity to act differently, pursu- ing profit and growth while also creating new value for society and there- fore for the world economy. It comes with an urgent need to place environ- mental, social, and ethical improvements on management’s agenda.

 

In recent decades, the fashion industry has been an engine for global development. One of the world’s largest consumer industries,1 generating €1.5 trillion in annual apparel and footwear revenues in 2016,2 it employs around 60 million people along its value chain.

 

To continue the growth trajectory, the fashion industry needs to ad- dress its environmental and social footprint. The earth’s natural resourc- es are under pressure, and the fashion industry, although not the most obvious contributor, is a considerable one. Social conditions—also in the fashion industry—are far from those set forth in the United Nations’ goals for sustainable development. With current trajectories of production and consumption, these pressures will intensify by 2030 to the point of threat- ening industry growth itself.

 

With resources becoming even scarcer, the industry will face rising costs from labor to materials and energy. Based on conservative projec- tions, fashion brands’ profitability levels are at risk in the range of at least 3 percentage points if they don’t act determinedly, and soon.

The facts show a clear need for acting differently. The good news is that by changing practices, the industry can both stop the negative impact and generate a high amount of value for society, while also protecting profitability. We estimate that the world economy would gain about €160 billion annually if the fashion industry would successfully address those environmental and social issues.

 

As of today, the sustainability ‘pulse’ of the industry is weak. The new- ly developed global Pulse Score, a health measure for the sector (see page 28 for more details), is only 32 out of 100. The industry is not yet where it could and should be. The spread of performance is also quite large. The best performers on sustainability are the very big players as well as some mid-sized, family owned companies, while over half of the market, mainly small to medium-sized players, has shown little effort so far. The rest of the industry is somewhere in between. This is confirmed by the Pulse Survey (further information on pages 35/36), where two-thirds of polled fashion executives have not made environmental and social factors guiding principles for their companies’ strategy.

 

Fashion brands with targeted initiatives will be best placed to improve their environmental and social footprint and counteract the rising costs of apparel production. They will pull ahead of their competitors with innovative ways of doing business and efficient production techniques that minimise the use of water, energy, and land, as well as hazardous chemicals. By realising better working conditions and improving workers’ safety, they will minimise their operational and reputational risks and create significant value for themselves and the world economy. These initiatives will improve the overall industry Pulse, raising the average and creating inspiring best practices for the low performers to learn from.

 

However, even if the entire industry caught up to the best practice front-runners, it would not be enough. Under optimistic and ambitious assumptions, only less than half of the €160 billion could be captured.4 The industry needs coordinated action beyond today’s solutions. This report explains the size of the challenge and the need for innovation, collaboration and supporting regulatory action to close the gap.

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