Council Post: Sustainability In Fast Fashion: How Tech Can Minimize Waste
Andreas Hassellof is the founder and CEO of Ombori and has garnered years of experience as a tech innovator.
Fast fashion is extremely popular with consumers, but it faces a lot of criticism for its historical lack of sustainability. Fortunately, there are some tech-based options that can help minimize waste to reduce the carbon footprint of this industry.
What Are The Leading Issues?
Understanding the specifics of the problems and the various ways in which tech can be used to make improvements is an important part of advancing the value of tech in fast fashion.
The biggest concerns in fast fashion, at least when it comes to sustainability, are outdated practices and product loss and turnover. Together, these factors create a perfect storm of problems that can be worked through with the right technology and tools.
* Outdated practices: Outdated practices within fast fashion often elicit more pollution and waste than they could if modernized practices were employed. By choosing modernized and streamlined production processes, businesses would produce fewer waste products and reduce the damage done to the environment.
What Tech Can Do To Help
* Product loss and turnover: Since fast fashion changes so quickly, a lot of the products are overproduced and overbought by retailers. This overproduction also costs money both in buying and in shipping — and labor. The extra shipping also adds to the CO2 footprint. Then, the leftovers are, in the best-case scenario, sold on sale highly discounted; if not, then they are thrown away so the next item can be sold. Most of these leftovers are slashed or otherwise vandalized, too, so they can’t be resold, donated, or used by anyone. The overproduction of products leads to an excessive level of waste.
Sustainability initiatives aren’t new in fast fashion, but they can certainly benefit from the marriage of sustainability and technology. With some knowledge of how technology can help make this industry more sustainable while preserving profits, more companies will take an interest in what they can do to move toward more sustainability in the future.
* Use RFID to reduce waste and loss: When you use radio frequency identification (RFID) for your warehouse or retail establishment, you can more easily know your stock levels. That stops you from wasting so much product. For warehouses, it’s also more likely that the right product will be shipped to the correct location and in the right amount.
When you get items to the right places, and you know what’s selling in which areas, coordinating the fashion products you’re offering becomes easier than ever. RFID is an excellent method of using technological advancements to coordinate product movement. That not only allows products to get between the warehouse and the retailers faster, but it reduces the waste produced from sending products to the wrong place or sending too many products for a retailer to sell effectively.
* AI can help coordinate product movement: Along with the use of RFID tags, you can use AI (artificial intelligence) to calculate estimated product volumes. This is used more by retailers than by warehouses or fast fashion creators but can be used at all levels of development and sales. By allowing AI to provide information about the amount of product it believes you will use or need, you can choose the right amount and avoid overstocking. You can also use AI to see patterns in trends, which countries lead and who follows, where you should test new concepts and send new garments first, and evaluate sales before you ship to other countries.
In-store options for AI also include seeing what’s being tried on in the fitting rooms but isn’t being purchased. Those items may look good on the hanger, but they don’t fit well in reality. If your store is selling out of other items quickly or selling out of only certain sizes in some items, you can use AI to give you insight into what to order more of and what to avoid buying in the future. Having a size problem with a fashionable outfit can add to a lot of waste because people won’t buy it even if they like it on the hanger. With better AI recommendation solutions and style guides online, you can reduce online returns and the problem that people order the same product in several sizes, thus reducing shipping and being able to sell products when they are still in fashion.
* Combine AI and RFID for the biggest benefits: Creating the right garments in the right volume, and then making sure they’re shipped to the right place, are all highly important parts of having success and sustainability in fast fashion. Getting things to where they go, and reducing the waste that comes with sending things to the wrong place, or sending too much of a product to a retailer, has a huge impact on the level of sustainability a company and an entire industry experience.
* Remember the value of reselling quality garments: Another way to use tech to increase sustainability in fast fashion is to create options for reselling. This can be done through the development of an online platform, where you can take a picture of a garment, then send it to a store so they can provide a resell price. They can then post it in the physical store if you’re close to them, or their online store, for someone else to purchase it.
As the customer, you then get a share of the price the store sells it for. For vintage things and more expensive garments, this can work very well. Several companies exist for people to do this with their garments, which has started to increase the sustainability of the fashion industry. The more that fast fashion embraces this, the more sustainable this industry can become.
* Don’t forget to “Rent the Runway”: Renting garments, especially those that are more expensive, is also becoming trendy. Outdoor wear, equipment and kids’ clothes are popular categories for companies that provide this service because these products often don’t wear out as quickly. However, it’s possible to create a rental service for all kinds of clothing. That way, several people get to benefit from the same products, and fewer products are produced.
There are many great ways that technology can minimize waste in the fast fashion arena, from the RFID tags used in warehouses to the AI options for retailers. Coupling that with consumers who resell and rent can make a significant difference in how sustainable fast fashion is in the long run.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.