How sustainability is shaping new career paths in the fashion industry.

2020 has been a hell of a ride for everyone, among these the fashion industry. But, in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity someone said. Can sustainability be an opportunity to reinvent an outdated business model and create new interesting career paths?

Brands now have to deal with a new consumer, more aware and demanding than ever before. Core values and integrity are crucial as consumers (and employees, too) ask them to take responsibility for their environmental and social impact.

But brands also have to be very careful about how they communicate as the risk of being accused of greenwashing is real. Transparency is key.

Companies have no choice but to run for cover and implement an actual, deep change from the inside. The implementation of sustainability will require new career paths.

Which figures can lead a corporate structure across such journey and how do they look like?

We tried to shed some light.

DESIGNER

I.e. Fashion designer, textile designer etc…

The sustainability of a product is set at the design stage.

This step truly shapes the destiny of an item which is why Designers are a fundamental part of the sustainability-conversion process.

The construction of a garment, the choice of the fibers or the dyeing methods can, and do, play a critical role.

How an item is done defines whether it can support durability, circularity and recyclability or jeopardize them.

If designers choose poor quality fibers not only the item will have short life, but it will also be very hard to recycle as the fibers won’t most likely take the stress of the process.

Similarly, the process would be complicated for a mix of synthetic and artificial fibers as separation of multiple fibers is complicated.

Moreover, it will also have a greater environmental impact throughout its lifecycle. Synthetic fibers shed microplastic in our waterways when washed or might require the use of chemicals to be cleaned (i.e. dry cleaning).

To have a fashion or textile designer who is sensitive towards these challenges is a fundamental starting point for a company with an eye towards sustainability.

SUSTAINABLE MATERIAL PRODUCTION

I.e. Bioengineers, Textile chemists & Agricultural experts

These figures usually innovate and produce new materials. Bioengineers come up with more sustainable fibers, like for example plant-based alternatives. The textile chemist creates new recycling and upcycling systems, finding the best way to give old fibers a new life.

Agricultural experts on the other side are key to explore the possibility of sustainable farming.

Some companies have started their own cultivation of organic cotton or hemp for example. This allows them to have higher control over the production process along with an effective cost reduction in the long term.

SUPPLY CHAIN & ETHICAL SOURCING

I.e. Sustainable Sourcing & Supply chain Manager

If a company doesn’t have the opportunity to create their own fibers, they can revert to a sustainable sourcing manager to do the scouting.

The SSM has the task to research into sustainable and innovative materials and sourcing them. Depending on the company’s structure, they can also be involved in assuring customers’ needs are aligned with supply chain capabilities. Finally, they make sure suppliers and factories adhere to a reliable, safe and transparent ethical compliance program.

The supply chain manager on the other hand is involved also in the social aspect of sustainability. Transparency is the main criteria.

The supply chain manager is not only responsible for supply chain related aspects, but is foremost in charge of curating the relationships aspects between supply chain and stakeholders. He/She has a close relationship with the suppliers, full awareness of the labor conditions and the status of the factories.

CORPORATE MANAGEMENT

I.e. Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility Manager

These are more corporate profiles.

Sustainability and CSR managers define and implement strategies that aim to reduce a company’s environmental impact while contributing to economic and social development.

This responsibility is extended to the full supply chain too, from workers conditions to suppliers’ environmental impact. It can include the optimization of operational and logistic processes, the coordination of collaborations and/or marketing initiatives, improvement of the office space, implementation of sustainable initiatives and strategies.

On top of that they should work also as sustainability leaders, for both internal and external stakeholders. CSR manager should be leading the company towards change, anticipating trends and being pioneers in seizing new business opportunities.

Ultimately, they might contribute in drafting the annual CSR report and/or the company’s EP&L (Environmental Profit & Loss).

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