How digitization can make the fashion industry more sustainable

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Ankiti Bose, Co-founder & CEO, Zilingo

  • The fashion industry is rightfully vilified for being environmentally unsustainable.
  • It takes over 4,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans and most of that water is not recycled.
  • The industry is also responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions.
  • Technology and the rapid digitization of the supply chain can make fashion more sustainable.

Fashion has long been perceived as a major contributor to forest fires, rising sea levels, unfair wages, exploitation of labour and overflowing landfills. Unfortunately, these perceptions hold true. It takes over 4,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans and most of that water is not recycled – indeed, one-fifth of all wastewater globally originates from fashion. The industry is also responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, that’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

The entire fashion industry has been vilified for years. More recently, observers have lamented the rise of fast fashion for its unethical manufacturing practices, and general lack of respect for the environment. Yet despite the backlash, most fast-fashion companies have continued to grow.

As humans, we feel the social pressure to conform to attitudes that are widely accepted by society, often socially claiming that we support these causes even if our actions are not aligned with our claims. While most people are aware that ethical initiatives are important for a better future, they don’t easily deviate from their default behaviour, especially when it offers perks like affordability, style, and convenience.

This is where technology and the rapid digitization of the supply chain can make all the difference.

Digitizing the supply chain

Aside from the moral argument of leaving the planet better for future generations, we now have a very powerful tool in the industry’s arsenal – profits. Yes, it does sound like an oxymoron, but thanks to digitization, companies can unlock profitability sooner and create a significantly more transparent supply chain.

Digitization removes opacity and middlemen, improves speed, and lowers inventory days. This frees up margins and makes favourable changes to the bottom line. Digitization also comes with other significant benefits like transparency, predictability, accountability, and traceability, all of which are critical to creating irreversible positive change in fashion supply chains.

Here’s how we can finally put our thoughts to action and make it all worthwhile.

Once all factory floors are digitized, manufacturers, brands and consumers can verify exactly where a product was made, who made the product and how it was made. When sourcing flows are digitized, the same stakeholders can verify whether the fabric was truly ethically sourced and if the material is as sustainable as it is claimed to be.

If manufacturing processes are digitized and logged, carbon footprint becomes transparent for all to see. Finally, if quality controls, audits, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) assessments are digitized, their reports become verifiable and available for all brands and consumers.

We already know that the majority of Gen Z – the generation that was born between 1997-2012 – and millennial consumers would prefer to buy sustainable and ethically sourced products at the same price. Many would even pay more for it. But the important catalyst to increase the adoption of ESG-friendly practices is to get brands, manufacturers, and old-school businesses to adopt them. And perhaps the quickest way would be to use digitization-driven-profitability to catalyze, incentivize and encourage it.

Benefits of digitization

Digitization will certainly make the bottom line better for businesses and in return provide significantly greater levels of transparency and sustainability. Newly available funds could then be re-invested in setting up processes that are both environment and employee-friendly. This would mean, fairer wages, better practices, and more sustainable fabrics without costing businesses a cent.

These changes will ultimately help the business landscape become more ethical as corporates adopt an inside-out approach as opposed to following a remedial exercise. Leveraging technology in businesses will have a bigger impact on collective productivity gain due to transactional efficiencies and the innovation-multiplier effect that results from digitized processes.

The time is now to drive the transformation of global capitalism towards a more digital, more inclusive, and more ethical future.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Lebanon: UN rights office calls for de-escalation of protest violence

Here’s how companies can make sure they are blockchain-ready

Why the financial scandals multiply?

JADE Generations Club: Connecting perspectives, changing Europe.

At global health forum, UN officials call for strong, people-focused health systems

To entrepreneurship and beyond!

My ‘’cultural’’ contacts with China

‘We are nowhere closer’ to Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, than a year ago, Security Council hears

‘Rare but devastating’ tsunamis underscore need for better preparation, UN chief urges on World Day

‘Regional security and integration’ in Central Africa under threat, Security Council warned

‘Spectre of poverty’ hangs over tribes and indigenous groups: UN labour agency

Recovery and Resilience Facility: Romania submits official recovery and resilience plan

Artificial intelligence: Commission takes forward its work on ethics guidelines

Industrial policy: recommendations to support Europe’s leadership in six strategic business areas

The ocean is teeming with microplastic – a million times more than we thought, suggests new research

Can Obama attract Iran close to the US sphere of influence?

Bring killers of journalists to justice: UN agency seeks media partners for new campaign

Regulate social media platforms to defend democracy, MEPs say

Canada has the most comprehensive and elaborate migration system, but some challenges remain

G20 LIVE: World Leaders in Turkey for G20 Summit. Global Economy will be discussed in Antalya

These countries are the most optimistic about economic recovery from the pandemic

Last-chance Commission: Why Juncker promised investments of €300 billion?

COP25: Developing nation’s strike hard

Ireland’s planning to make its Emerald Isle even greener

Peer-to-peer learning: a way to develop medical students’ trainings

ISIL continues to pose a ‘serious challenge’ worldwide – UN counter-terror chief

Biodiversity: MEPs demand binding targets to protect wildlife and people

Leaders need hard data to make the hard decisions about sustainability

Nicaragua ‘crisis’ still cause for concern amid murder, torture allegations: Bachelet

Trump: Hostile to Europe, voids Tillerson’s “ironclad” ally pledge

Businesses, governments and consumers to implement a more climate-friendly approach to #BeatPlasticPollution on World Environment Day 2018

Right2Water initiative: Is the Commission ready to listen to citizens?

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal is bad for US business. Here’s why.

3 natural mysteries that could be explained by quantum physics

The winds of change: 5 charts on the future of offshore power

Millions of Bangladeshi children at risk from climate crisis, warns UNICEF

COVID-19 and the importance of scientific credibility in decreasing the number of cases

Antitrust: Commission opens investigation into possible anti-competitive conduct of Amazon

Plastic is a global problem. It’s also a global opportunity

NASA is recruiting new astronauts – this is what it takes to apply

Why it’s time to celebrate migrants

Fighting forest fires in Europe – how it works

The Pegasus Project awarded the 2021 Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism

Detecting online child sexual abuse requires strong safeguards

Sexual reproductive health rights SRHR and ending HIV: can one be achieved without the other?

Greenhouse gas emissions have already peaked in 30 major cities

Transparency, EU values, and pluralism: new rules for European political parties

Central Asia bloc has important role in ‘peace, stability and prosperity’ beyond region, says Deputy UN chief

Greater transparency, fairer prices for medicines ‘a global human rights issue’, says UN health agency

It’s time to end our ‘separate but unequal’ approach to mental health

How smart tech helps cities fight terrorism and crime

EU and Mercosur reach agreement on trade

UN committed to helping Haiti build better future, says Guterres, marking 10-year anniversary of devastating earthquake

Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to O2 CZ, CETIN and T-Mobile CZ for their network sharing agreement

5 things to know about the exploding world of pro gaming

World Food Programme accesses Yemeni frontline district for first time since conflict began

UN chief calls for ‘immediate end’ to escalation of fighting in southwestern Syria, as thousands are displaced

The world’s food waste problem is bigger than we thought – here’s what we can do about it

A Sting Exclusive: “Seize the opportunity offered by Africa’s continental free trade area”, written by the Director General of UNIDO

More Stings?


  1. Sophia Moller says:

    Your article is amazing. Thanks for sharing with us.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: