Comment: ‘Seize the opportunity to reinvent, adapt and experiment’

Brands can no longer afford to take a "skin-deep" approach to sustainability, says Johnstons of Elgin chief executive, Simon Cotton

The Covid-19 outbreak has had the most significant impact on UK manufacturing of any event in my lifetime. Before the huge disruption of the pandemic, there were already sizeable shifts towards greater environmental responsibility, as every brand sought to retrofit a sustainability story into existing business models.

Some of the biggest challenges around fashion – over-consumption, redundancy of skilled individuals and waste – however, remained the most difficult topics to address. Now they are firmly on the agenda.

Sustainability has gone from being the passionate concern of a small group of consumers, to becoming a core expectation for most of us. Every apparel brand must now have a sustainability “story”. Brands that have this, gain shelf space, influencer recommendations and consumer followings. Sadly, we all know that for many of these brands their sustainability credentials are at best skin-deep and, at worst, pure greenwashing. That narrow and market-focused approach to sustainability issues is no longer acceptable, and must be confined to the past.

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