Eco-chic: How PIM Drives Sustainability in Fashion

With the Earth close to hitting irreversible ‘tipping points,’ it’s no surprise that there’s more and more pressure on online businesses to deliver sustainable eCommerce. Nevertheless, this is even more important for online retailers within the fashion sector.

With new standards set by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), and the consequences of the UK’s net zero targets U-turn, creating a consistent record across the board can be challenging. The need for standardized data quickly snowballs, especially for businesses operating across territories with conflicting requirements.

As a result, online businesses need to communicate sustainability practices with in-depth, quality data. Most importantly, these new initiatives pave the way for businesses, consumers, and investors to put green practices at the core of their decision-making and help save the planet (and their brand image!).

Let’s delve deeper into what these changes mean for businesses in the fashion and apparel space. We’ll also look at the role of Product Information Management (PIM) solutions in this new age of data transparency.

How to make fashion eCommerce more sustainable

To achieve sustainable eCommerce means you’re going to have to change the way you work.

From sourcing materials to sustainably designing and marketing products, a total process revamp is in order. If we take it step-by-step, here are some of the critical things that are going to be top of mind every step of the way:

Sourcing materials:

The fashion sector has a massive environmental impact. For instance, sourcing materials often leads to some of the highest emissions from fashion and apparel businesses. For example, up to 100 billion items are produced by the fashion sector each year. However, 92 million tons will end up in landfills, not to mention the carbon-heavy processes associated with treating, dyeing, and transporting textiles and components.

Adopting a circular economy starts at the beginning of the product development lifecycle, and customers (and investors) will likely want eyes on the information relating to these processes.

Designing products:

Fast fashion is one of the main culprits in the ‘take-make-dispose’ mentality that massively contributes to vast amounts of waste, otherwise referred to as the linear economy.

As the old saying goes, quality over quantity is where it needs to be. It’s time to embrace a new era of products designed and built to last. Furthermore, the end-of-life of clothing and footwear items needs to be considered at the design stage to ensure we can get the best possible value from all the resources we use.

The way you market:

Greenwashing is regularly thrown around in the fashion and apparel industry, and the new sustainability standards aim to end this. People are doing more and more research around the green credentials of the products they buy or the companies they will work for or invest in.

Consumers want solid proof that they’re contributing to the solution, not the problem, in doing business with you. This is where you can leverage your product data and digital assets to tell your sustainability story. Give your customers, employees, and investors the sustainable credentials they’re looking for when checking out your ESG goals.

The end of life of products:

Only 1% of clothes get recycled and turned into new garments. Adopting a more circular economy is what we all need to aim for to ensure this is no longer the case. The good news is that there are positive steps companies and consumers should take to move away from the linear model and become a sustainable ecommerce brand. For example, fashion and apparel businesses should explore recycling end-of-life products to create new ones.

You should constantly supply your customers with all the after-care information they need. This ranges from how to repair items to how best to take care of items to ensure they get the best possible use from them. Again, this is where meticulous management of your product data will be key!

What do environmentally savvy customers want to know?

New (and ever-changing!) legislation and reporting standards mean businesses need to provide more granular detail about their products. This massively benefits businesses championing green initiatives, fast becoming a key focus for many consumers.

For those looking to make environmentally sound purchases, you need to provide detailed information so they can make informed buying decisions. Some of the details they’ll be looking for might include the following:

Pre-purchase information:

Include how products are sourced and what they’re made from. This includes the working conditions in factories and along the supply chain. It will likely include details of product transportation and logistics, like product air miles, etc.

Key product details:

This is where it can get very granular. To be truly environmentally friendly, you need to give details on every product component.

Key sustainable product details include the materials used, the methods of extracting the raw materials, the dyes used – the list goes on! Overall, it’s best to provide as much detail as possible to offer that extra layer of reassurance. Leverage product descriptions to demonstrate your commitment to being an environmentally conscious online store.

Does your product feature recycled materials? Does it contain single-use plastics? What are the packaging materials? What about eco-friendly packaging? Be sure to showcase your eco-friendly business practices.

Delivery details:

It’s great buying sustainably sourced and manufactured products, but it’s pointless if masses of CO2 are emitted upon delivery. This is where it’s essential to highlight the different delivery options you offer. It is important to note that you must let customers know how long environmentally friendly options will take if there is a significant difference.

Post-purchase considerations:

To ensure customers get the most from their purchases, let them know what they can do to look after their products to extend their lifespan as much as possible. After-care instructions or how to repair garments will move consumers towards a more circular mindset. Consider offering a repair service to extend the lifespan of products further.

How to make eCommerce more sustainable with PIM

Sustainable ecommerce platforms with existing reporting processes will likely find these new changes much easier to deal with. If this is the case, surfacing the details environmentally savvy consumers want to see will also be more manageable.

The excellent news is Product Information Management (PIM) comes with powerful tools that will help you standardize product data to meet new reporting standards. These come in the form of workflows where you can specify rules for what product data should look like. Consequently, regardless of how many data sources you have, you will ensure consistency and conformity across your entire product range.

Powerful workflows, automation, and data governance give you complete visibility over the accuracy and completeness of product data. Furthermore, you can specify which bits of product data you want to publish to different sales channels. This might include videos showing workers in factories or of your products being produced.

Not to mention, you have tremendous storage capabilities within your PIM. As such, you can store, manage, and distribute all sorts of media files that showcase your green credentials. Anything from images and video to PDF documents showing regulatory compliance and industry-standard certifications. Throughout the online shopping experience, you can give consumers the details they need to make ethically responsible purchases.