Global brand and retail leaders gathered for the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Event to champion the vision.

Representatives from prominent brands such as M&S, Boden, Primark and others joined charities and supporters on March 13, 2024 at the Hilton, London Bankside to participate in insightful discussions, innovative presentations and collaborative dialogues exploring practical strategies for sustainable practices. Columbus Consulting Product and Brand Specialist, Suzanne Bailey was among the industry leaders to share her knowledge and learn current best practices from start-ups, how the industry is refocusing on the supply chain and what lies ahead with the impending EPR legislation.

Critical to the sustainability challenge is the importance of collaboration/end-to-end integrated visibility and data-driven decision making. Sessions discussed how brands and retailers are looking to implement collective action to shape the future of the fashion industry. At the forefront of this change is consumer engagement, organizational capabilities and commercial viability. While manufacturers are looking to weave sustainability across the value chain by sourcing more environmentally friendly materials and balancing carbon footprint impact, retailers, in unison, are looking to buying higher quality goods with more longevity and incorporating rental services, resale shops and preloved departments/assortments.  While the community recognized innovation and brands getting it right (like Jorgen House which sells maternity wear that grows before and after pregnancy, reducing trimester and post birth short term purchases), they were anxious to best prepare for EPR (extended producer responsibility). According to Bailey, “the immediate need in sustainability is to balance consumer demand/tolerance with both legislation requirements and global responsibility. The industry is looking to prepare their organisations for the implementation of digital product passports which requires investments, data governance and change management.”

Responsible fashion will require sustainable textile manufacturing, collective compliance, and both  upcycling and downcycling recycling. This entire practice will need more supply chain transparency from source to shelf. The ultimate goal is to reduce the industry’s global impact but doing so in a business viable way that costs less but provides more benefits to both the consumer and the environment. 

Four start-up brands identified by Drapers as “ones to watch” included: Cape Cove (supporting women’s communities), Pip and Henry (recycled fabric footwear), Jorgen House and MAI (saving endangered animals). These brands broadened the view of what being responsible is really about. Reducing carbon footprints is one piece of the global puzzle, but investing in people, helping the animal community and finding new uses for old goods/materials are also a part of the mission. Similarly, refining the business viability for second hand goods, like Vinted (with 16 million+ UK registrants and presence in 20 markets) and building demand for more sustainable supplier vendors are also part of the taxonomy. 

Bailey summarized her experience by commenting, “when clients ask me where they should start in their journey towards EPR and their own sustainability pledge, I tell them with data and product tagging. Brands/retailers need to prepare now by getting their data sources, data governance and data processes aligned end-to-end and across their organisations and need to get some type of RFID technology enabled on their goods. These two core components will establish a solid foundation for measuring and improving their current practices and enable them to achieve their longer-term goals. Also, not going it alone is key. Working with experienced partners, like Columbus Consulting, can help you mitigate risk and ensure greater success.” 


Columbus Consulting delivers solutions that drive true value and have been transforming the retail and CPG industries for over two decades. We are a retail consulting company of industry experts. Our approach is simple, if you do it, we do it. We are more than consultants; we are experienced practitioners who actually sat in our clients’ seats. We understand the challenges, know what questions to ask and deliver the right solutions. Columbus offers a unique, consumer-centric approach with an end-to-end perspective that bridges functional & organization silos from strategy to execution. Our specialties include: unified commerce, merchandising & category management, planning & inventory management, sourcing & supply chain, data & analytics, accounting, finance & operations, people & organization and information technology. Let us know how we can help you. To learn more, visit COLUMBUSCONSULTING.COM.

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