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Sustainable Textiles Conference


We were at the Sustainable Textiles Conference in Hong Kong back in October [this post has been a while coming] and what struck us was the presence of so many mainstream brands. Large brands with large impact.

So far sustainability in fashion has largely focused on raw material selection (though, we're still the only brand with a whole collection of smart, suitable for work, men's shirts in organic cotton) but it’s great to see that many brands have progressed further and started viewing sustainability holistically.

And so here's a shout out to one of them who is doing interesting things: Puma.

Puma has taken a leadership role in sustainable fashion by publishing the economic valuation of the environmental impacts caused by greenhouse emissions and water consumption along its value chain. They also plan to measure the social and economic impact in the next phases. Stakeholders and consumers are increasingly interested in knowing these details and it makes such good business sense that we wonder why nobody has come up with such a matrix for so many years.

We know how difficult it is to measure the disparate factors in the long, diverse and complex supply chain in the fashion industry. So plaudits from Arthur and Henry for pioneering this initiative and for publishing the results as they are. By which we mean that Puma rank their own performance as red [=bad] i.e. they have calculated they take more from the environment than they provide to their customer. In the fashion world where green washing and ‘fair’ washing are becoming fairly common, Puma’s transparency is really commendable.

At Arthur & Henry, we feel that for many brands the product price only reflects an economic cost of production and does not include the environmental or social cost. We strongly believe that what makes a business or an individual responsible is the willingness to pay the true cost rather than expecting (or letting!) the environment and the people in the value chain pay for it.  We're tiny in comparison with Puma but we're looking at their learnings as we develop our measuring and reporting systems.

Sreeranga Rajan is a shirt and cotton expert extraordinaire and co-founder of Arthur & Henry.  He is currently based in Bangalore.

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