Beyond Sustainability to Regeneration for a Golden World

Posted by Jeff Scult on

The Business of Fashion asks a question to the surprise of many: Has sustainability become a dirty word?

The answer is abundantly clear. While altruistic in concept, Sustainability has become the greenwashing word of the fashion industry. It's an illusionary, ambiguous feel good ambush stamped on branding messages, and for many fast fashion brands, a bypass mask to arguably the planet's dirtiest industry receiving a hall pass for far too long. 

Ask yourself: What does sustainability even mean? Even those ethically working on it struggle to define it.

Sustainability is not a business model, and as a goal, may be the least inspiring goal imaginable. Picture your child beginning their education and you told them, "Your goal is get a C average." And to be blunt, "maintainability" is akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic in an industry already receiving a failing grade. It a low bar goal that is not going to get us out of the mess that we've created as human beings. And beyond that, the question needs to be asked whether "sustainability" in the fashion industry is even possible.


    1. Profit-at-all-costs business will always produce more than our Planetary eco-system can absorb. As Webster's defines Sustainability, avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance, is simply not possible in an industry whose flawed business model is to over-produce, and (a) sell-through excess inventory at ever spiraling discounted costs, (b) incinerate or (c) dump.

    2. Humans will always take more than we need

The scorecard is abhorrent. The fashion industry is currently graded at a 30 score out of 100 in terms of its practices for environmental and human impact, already among the most polluting industries. [Source: Pulse 2019]. Back to the education analogy: We adults would be scolded back to middle school based on the grades we are getting. 


We can go further as an industry, we can do more. So what's the solution?
We submit it is to beyond Sustainability to Regeneration.
Frame the concept of regeneration as an infinite cycle of innovating with natural sources, whose regenerative model restores and replenishes natural resources at a greater rate than it takes to what we create. 

This is not new. Regenerative agriculture which educates us that soil is soul, and practices this infinite cycle paradigm. Regenerative food systems. Same thing. And as my buddy Tru teaches, love is the only regenerative language.


The good news?

There is an emergence of businesses standing for being this collective force for social and environmental good. Brands that touch the below four points will not just survive, they will surv-thrive in this new re-beginning of conscious consumption:
1. It is a better product for me?
2. Is the message aligned with my values of how I show up in the world?  
3. Are the materials good from Earth, and not harmful for Earth? 
4. Is the model regenerative, giving back to materially improve the Earth and its inhabitants? 

This emergent world is made possible only if you choose to embrace these principles, pivoting from unconscious to conscious consumption, owning less things, for life, that you love more. The (INCREDIBLY) good news is this, there is no longer a trade-off: Wear what you love, stylish af, that's also good for, and from Earth.
Follow your own golden thread...

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