Fruitless Sustainability in a Flooded Marketplace of Stuff

If we want to build a fashion industry that’s sustainably conscious, let’s start by producing a lot less goods. No amount of effort towards creating, sourcing, and using sustainable fabrics and production facilities will have a meaningful effect if the industry continues to over produce and retailers continue to overstock.

Sustainability + Overproduction Cannot Coexist

Think about these two things: First, the global garment industry produces more than 150 billion garments every year, yet there are roughly only 3 billion people who have the means to consume those goods. One billion people on the planet still have no access to drinkable water.

Second, most global brands and retailers carry more than 120 days of inventory in their stores, on their stockroom shelves, and in their warehouses. Meanwhile Walmart, which is about as big as all the other retailers combined, manages less than 45 days of inventory. The same is true of Amazon. Ford and GM keeps roughly 30 days worth of inventory.

Fashion should be a fast turning business. It currently turns about 2.7X a year. It should turn +6.0X a year. What would happen if the amount of inventory in stores and on-hand decreased from 120 days to less than 60? What would happen if the industry produced just 120 billion garments instead of well over 150 billion garments? You can be sure of these four things:

  1. Sales would improve
  2. Margins would expand
  3. Demand would increase
  4. Sustainability would be massively improved

Brands and retailers can do much, much more with far, far less. By aligning what is made with what can be consumed, the industry can make a giant dent towards sustainability. Plus the tremendously improved profits margins that will be gained can be put back into people, technology, and environments.

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