As sustainability becomes more important to the modern-day consumer, fashion companies wanting to attract new business or maintain brand loyalty must adopt sustainable practices across all operations.

According to a recent survey, 67% of consumers consider the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor for fashion items, while 88% believe more attention needs to be paid to reducing pollution.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the industry. Sustainability was highlighted as the second biggest opportunity for companies in 2022 in the McKinsey & Company State of Fashion report, with executives suggesting that any costs or challenges relating to sustainability may be outweighed by the business benefits.

Man shopping in the store

We’re now seeing companies starting to provide carbon footprint details of each garment to the end consumer as a selling point. Adidas recently launched a shoe advertised as the lowest carbon footprint sneaker of all time, and Forbes expects all future items to feature QR codes that display full sustainability statistics.

However, the fashion industry remains one of the world’s least environmentally friendly industries – accounting for approximately 2.1 billion tones of greenhouse gas emissions per year (around 4% of global emissions). So there’s still a lot of work to do.

Logistics can undoubtedly play its part, as integrating sustainability into supply chains can not only redress the balance and push towards carbon neutrality, but also herald success with the end consumer. It all starts with visibility.

Emissions

Having complete transparency over your fashion supply chain – for example, through the Emissions Dashboard – means being able to identify emission hotspot corridors and work with your logistics provider to find a more eco-friendly solution.

With full transparency and access to logistics sustainability data, fashion companies can strike a balance between products that need a faster and less sustainable route to market, like air freight, and those with slower lead times that can rely on greener transport.

Fashion checking

Utilising a strong network featuring various transport modes is a sure way to cut your emissions significantly. For example, opting for the likes of rail or barge over trucking provides considerable emissions benefits. However, customers need to make their supply chains more energy-efficient to reach ambitious targets.

This not only means implementing energy-efficient technologies and low-carbon solutions – in which Maersk is continuing to research and invest, including biofuels and green methanol – but also by reducing empty container moves, optimising loads and increasing storage to maximise the energy output.

It’s all about making every single ounce of carbon achieve more every step of the way. Visibility and flexibility across the supply chain can make this possible.

Containers ship

Another way fashion brands are becoming more environmentally friendly is through near-sourcing and near-shoring. In a recent survey of Chief Procurement Officers at fashion companies, 71% said they plan to increase the share of near-shoring close to company headquarters, and roughly 25% intend to re-shore sourcing to their headquarters’ country.

Lifting the containers

Both practices aren’t without their challenges, but they can bring numerous benefits through supply chain control, flexibility and predictability without hindering quality, while the sustainability rewards are also vast. A European fashion company moving its output from far-eastern countries to European shores means transport distances are greatly reduced and a broader network of greener options – like rail – become available from end to end.

The goal for Maersk is to provide decarbonised logistics solutions all the way from factory to sofa, and support fashion companies on their individual sustainability pledges. Maersk has already tailored solutions for fashion customers to ensure that a high percentage of their cargo is transported using eco-friendly power. Strong investment in and development of many of these technologies from Maersk means more customers will be able to benefit from the innovation of their supply chains.

Containers train

By 2040, Maersk aims to be carbon-neutral across all operations, and by 2030, these ambitions will start becoming a reality. Ocean will see a 50% reduction in carbon intensity, with 25% of all cargo transported on green fuels. Within air freight, 30% will be transported using Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), while inland transportation will boast industry-leading green statistics. Add this to terminals reducing their emissions by 70% and warehouses having a minimum of 90% fully green operations, and it’s clear that the fashion industry and beyond can reap the benefits.

Fashion brands may not historically have the best reputation regarding sustainability, but new global values, together with consumer preferences, means addressing the fashion carbon footprint has never been more important.

While adopting environmentally friendly operations such as carbon-neutral logistics doesn’t come without investment, the cost-saving benefits can balance out in the long term and all the while provide a sustainability-conscious edge over your competitors.

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