Patagonia, The North Face, Levi Strauss, top Circular Fashion Index
The Circular Fashion Index (CFX) by Kearney measures a brand’s efforts to extend a product’s lifecycle.
150 global brands from 20 countries were judged in six categories including luxury, premium and affordable luxury, mass market, fast fashion, sports, outdoor lingerie and underwear.
A company’s circular fashion performance is evaluated across seven dimensions that impact garment longevity. These dimensions include two perspectives: the primary market (which affects the sale of new products to consumers) and the secondary market (e.g. the used market or recycling). Scores for each dimension are weighted, with the highest weighting being given to second-hand sales, rental services, and the reuse of returned clothing as raw materials or for donations. Next, the ratings are combined to give an overall rating between 1 and 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
Patagonia scored 8.50 out of 10, applauding its gear rental program and use of recycled materials.
Levi Strauss scored 8.20 out of 10, improving its score primarily through new rentals: Under the Ganni brand, the company launched a capsule-only capsule collection made from upcycled denim made from vintage jeans.
The North Face scored 8.05 out of 10 and slightly improved its use of recycled fabrics.
Other brands such as Esprit, Lululemon Athletica and Lindex were also strongly represented for their circular fashion efforts.
“These companies are excellent examples of ‘good growth‘ as they combine ‘sustainability in action’ with excellent financial performance. Patagonia’s mission statement is “We are in business to save our home planet” – and our rankings validate that commitment,” the report reads.
The industry average score for 2022 was 2.97 out of 10. This is up from 1.6 out of 10.
Kearney notes that industry and consumer awareness and activity has increased since 2020, leading to heightened awareness of the role fashion plays – or doesn’t play – in creating a more sustainable environment. Google searches for sustainable fashion are up 350%. Second-hand platforms are growing at double-digit rates. And last year, H&M posted more than 100 times on its official social media accounts on a variety of topics, including water and CO2 Reduction, circularity and biodegradability.
But the research also found that only 7% use recycled materials to any credible extent; 54% use recycled materials for a few select items or some product features, but 39% use no recycled materials at all. While communicating and promoting circularity efforts are the easiest and quickest actions to implement, 44% of brands don’t do it at all and 40% are content to provide the minimum level of care instructions required by law.
The results are even worse for circular actions that require higher engagement. Only 5% (mostly luxury brands) offer full repair services, 5% second-hand sales and only 2% rental or leasing services. 8% of brands offer extensive donation options, so that clothing can at least be used as a raw material or donated.
Luxury and premium brands achieve the highest scores due to their extensive care instructions and repair services, which a discerning clientele expects due to the price premium. Fast fashion and underwear/lingerie have the lowest scores due to the nature of their business model. Second-hand or rental services are more difficult to introduce in these segments.
“We began this report by acknowledging that it takes a village – a global village – to save the environment, and that the challenge of creating a sustainable, clean environment is such that no single industry can solve it alone can, and that is true.” The report concludes.
“But as CFX 2022 shows, there’s a lot more the fashion industry could do. Producing significantly fewer garments while extending the lifespan of their clothes by allowing consumers to wear them longer is the most effective way to reduce the industry’s environmental impact.
“But before that can happen, fashion brands need to acknowledge, understand and own their environmental impact from one end of the value chain to the other, including manufacturing, distribution and retail partners. Only then will they be able to prioritize initiatives with the greatest impact.
“Communication is also crucial. Fashion brands need to communicate how consumers can shop and dress more sustainably. Above all, they must stop pressuring consumers to buy the latest trends in order to always look en vogue.
“Designers need to consider circularity in their process. Clothing should be designed to be more durable and timeless so that consumers can wear them longer. Manufacturing with the inclusion of monofibers and other innovative materials that are easier to recycle would also make a big difference. Brands also need to invest in repair services, in addition to looking seriously at second-hand and rental services.
“Regulators and legislators can help the industry transition to more sustainable practices by setting and enforcing global standards and policies – for example, on value chain traceability or minimum garment lifespans. Regulators can also help set up the necessary infrastructure such as take-back programs; Supporting R&D investments in areas ranging from new fiber development to recycling technology; encourage sustainable behavior through tax incentives for sustainable fashion brands; and ban unsustainable practices like burning unsold inventory.”
Read Just Style’s latest analysis: “The green-washed robe of fast fashion”