Can data help fashion slash overproduction and reduce emissions?
Author: Martin Guttridge
Currently it’s estimated that the fashion industry disposed of between 14 and 15b brand new items of clothing each year. This is largely down to overproduction, with some brands believing that disposing of excess stock is the best way to protect value and company name. One highly publicised example of this was Burberry, which burnt £28.6m of items that went unsold in 2019. However, this approach is widespread, and a leading cause for concern about the high environmental impact of the industry overall. Most clothes wind up on landfill, with others destined for incinerators. The result being high levels of land and air pollution. Now OC&C Strategy Consultants has produced research in collaboration with trend forecasting company WSGN pointing to how the situation can be improved. Essentially, it come down to more effective use of data to predict what consumer demand will look like in the coming year. Buying more in line with this can increase the contribution margin by between one and three points per product category, boost open-to-buy and lower waste. With this approach, overproduction can fall by between five and 15% depending on category. This would lead to a reduction in clothes making their way to dumping grounds and furnaces, but by reducing production in line with demand, carbon emissions would also come down by an estimated 3%. This is due to less manufacturing and waste.