The Cikis Sustainability Assessment: what is it?
Sustainable development is now a priority for fashion and textile companies, one of the most polluting sectors. The total emissions of greenhouse gases from textile production, equal to 1.2 billion a year, are higher than those of all international flights and maritime transport combined. This system must change. That requires systemic effort and an unprecedented degree of commitment, as well as collaboration and innovation.
In a previous article, we talked about Cikis Sustainability Assessment and how our framework developed specifically for the fashion sector allows us to analyze the integration of sustainability practices within business processes and the supply chain. A survey conducted by Cikis in 2020, showed that 41.5% of Italian SMEs do not have skills regarding sustainability. At once, 19.5% have never raised the problem.
The Cikis Sustainability Assessment is divided into three macro-categories. This framework maps the critical issues and strengths of the company as a whole, immediately identifying actionable points to be implemented in the strategy. In particular, for each area analyzed within the macro-categories, a benchmark is made comparing to the main industry standards.
Cikis Sustainability Assessment: Product and Processes
Today we analyze the Product and Processes macro-category. It indicates the level of sustainability of the collections, also referring to the supply chain. It is of key relevance both in terms of sustainability and attention from the market: the product is the first communication tool for the company. This section is divided into five areas:
Cikis Sustainability Assessment: Fabrics (materials and processes)
In terms of impact, the selection of fabrics is, together with the use of energy along the supply chain, the most crucial element for reducing emissions included in the guide for the clothing sector of Science Based Targets.
The materials used by the companies have an environmental and social impact along with different phases. From an environmental point of view and depending on the material, the impact can concern the cultivation process, energy, water, and chemicals, the use of land otherwise destined for agriculture or subject to the risk of loss of biodiversity, animal welfare. From a social perspective, the aspect to be taken into greater consideration is the protection of workers’ rights through the various stages of processing, especially during the cultivation stage.
In particular, the selection of fabrics and materials cannot be separated from the analysis of chemical processes that have both environmental and health implications. Compliance with high chemical standards, even beyond legal compliance, is a critical issue for companies. We talked about it in this article, dedicated to the ZDHC program.
Cikis Sustainability Assessment: Management of collections
The average percentage of yearly unsold items by fashion brands can often be around 20% of the entire production. Fashion brands face thus not only an environmental and reputational challenge but also an economic one. (See the scandal caused by the incineration of unsold garments by Burberry and other companies). The blocking of sales due to the health emergency has highlighted the criticality linked to seasonality as well as the rapid depreciation of goods.
Inventory management is one of the potential and environmental and economic problems for companies that hence must rethink the percentages of carried over.
Cikis Sustainability Assessment: Microplastics
The risk of microplastic release is mainly present in synthetic fiber products and is higher the more frequent their washes. That phenomenon has recently become the object of public attention, together with synthetic fibers in general. The risk of microplastic release depends not only on whether the material is synthetic but also on the type of material, fiber and stitching. Do you want to find out more about the possible solutions that brands can adopt?
Cikis Sustainability Assessment: Packaging and labels
Packaging and labels have relative relevance in terms of environmental and social impact compared to collections (in 2016, packaging accounted for 3% of Nike’s total impact, compared to 19% for polyester, 19% for foams and rubbers, and 15% dyeing and finishing). However, they are direct communication tools between the company and the final consumer and, as such, showing their sustainability gives a message of commitment. For companies that sell mainly to retailers, labels not only have the function of presenting the garment but can also be vehicles for direct communication to consumers on the characteristics of the company and products.
Cikis Sustainability Assessment: Information and services for consumers
The use of products is a phase with a high environmental impact (it represented 18% of the total-impact for H&M in 2017 and 34% for Levi’s in 2018). Despite being a phase managed by end consumers, companies can influence their behaviour through designing low-impact home washable products. They can also perform a crucial educational function in informing the consumers, which can be implemented in the communication strategy, as it does, for instance, Patagonia.
The Cikis Sustainability Assessment: beyond Products and Processes
In addition to Products and Processes, our framework analyzes the Supply Chain and Corporate macro-categories, linked respectively to the level of sustainability of its suppliers and traceability beyond direct suppliers and the sustainability of corporate operations.
A complete and material analysis is the first step to define an effective sustainability strategy capable of integrating company priorities. In fact, in this phase, the main areas of action emerge, from which to start to outline the operational implementation project and an adequate communication strategy. Choosing Cikis means having practical support in selecting materials and suppliers, in the testing of chemical processes, in the development of circular economy projects, and in communicating the path taken.
Want to find out your company’s strengths and soft spots in terms of product and process sustainability?
Dopo esperienze di lavoro in Mango, dove ho sperimentato in prima persona la complessità del sistema produttivo del Fast Fashion, e in una tech Company americana, mi sono dedicata allo studio delle criticità ambientali e sociali della filiera di produzione delle aziende di moda e di come la tecnologia potesse supportarle nello sviluppo sostenibile.