While the sustainable fashion industry is growing, so is the number of brands opting for Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) to measure their environmental performance. As part of our 3-part webinar series on The Impact of Impact Assessments in the Fashion Industry, we hosted four sustainable fashion pioneer brands: Merryn Chilcott, Sustainability & Technical Manager, BAM Bamboo Clothing; Amhalia Stevens, founder of the sustainable swimwear brand Vitamin A; Suzanne Siemens, co-founder and CEO, Aisle, the sustainable period products; Cindy Jones-Nyland, CMO, To The Market.
We wanted to hear about how performing an LCA with Green Story helped them gain a greater understanding of their environmental performance and grow their businesses. The session, moderated by sustainability expert, educator and consultant, Derek Sabori, is also available here and was recorded in March 2021.
Here are 5 benefits to performing an impact assessment with Green Story:
1. An LCA provides you with credible data to justify your sustainable claims
In an industry plagued with greenwashing, consumers struggle to sift through a brand’s green marketing tactics to find ones they trust. Data from an LCA is hard to argue with though. Merryn Chilcott from BAM Bamboo Clothing, said “there’s so much noise out there and consumers don’t know what’s being greenwashed or not, so it really helps to have these numbers available.”
All four brands knew that they needed to conduct an LCA to substantiate their sustainable claims for their consumers and for themselves. “We knew we were making a positive impact, but we didn’t know how much, and we didn’t have the data to confirm it,” Amahlia Stevens from Vitamin A, shared.
Not only does an LCA garner credibility with your customers, but for Aisle, it “helped [them] have additional credibility with the media and investors who care about supporting impact-based companies and showed how our commitment to climate measurement makes a positive difference.”
2. It gives you a competitive advantage in the fashion industry
Fashion “is a very competitive industry, so doing an LCA with Green Story was an opportunity to differentiate Aisle and empower consumers with information that can help them feel good about their decision,” Suzanne Siemens shared. At BAM Bamboo Clothing, the deciding factor was the idea that brand “needed to do something that was going to set us apart from other clothing businesses.”
Vitamin A’s swimwear uses a fabric that was created by them, using recycled nylon fibers, making their LCA unique. For them, the decision to quantify the product’s impact was “filling a void in the swimwear market.” By creating a sustainable product backed by an LCA, Vitamin A paved the way for other swimwear brands and suppliers to start considering their environmental impact.
Cindy Jones-Nyland from To The Market, explained that having tangible knowledge about their products’ impact, To The Market “has a lot more trust and faith about what they’re providing, from an idea perspective to their retailers that are interested in sustainability.” Using supply chain data helps them pitch products confidently, building trust with their retailers from the get-go.
3. Helps you set measurable goals and innovate with intention
If you can’t measure it, you cannot improve it. LCA’s provide a baseline to measure and innovate from. In one of the most competitive industries, brands have to be cautious about where they focus their resources and energy. The insights from an LCA can help brands zero in on their priorities. For example, Vitamin A realized, through their LCA, that their linen products produced in India had a significant environmental impact, despite the fact that linen is a sustainable raw material. With this information, now they’re focusing on finding alternatives to lower the impact of their linen-based products.
BAM set a goal in 2018 to become climate positive by 2030. Having conducted their LCA with Green Story, they’ve pinpointed hotspots along their supply chain to focus on to achieve their goal. They “needed to get more accurate data to measure their progress against the goals they had set up.” Without having accurate and specific data, it’s hard to measure progress, or lack thereof, made on indicators that you value; an LCA fills that void.
4. Enables you to forge collaborative relationships with your suppliers and partners
In order to even conduct an LCA, brands need several inputs from each phase of their supply chains. Gathering this data can be difficult without strong relationships with your suppliers. Undergoing this process with suppliers can help strengthen the relationship and foster a partnership. Suzanne from Aisle, advises brands to “explain to suppliers why you need this information, and why it’s important for both your organization’s growth. It’s a partnership and your suppliers should know how committed you are.”
For To The Market, “it’s been critical and at the center of their business to have and build supplier relationships,” Cindy explained. “We’ve even incorporated LCA inputs into our vetting process,” so they have this information from the get-go and “suppliers can see that we’re driven by purpose and not just profits.” This rallies suppliers around your common goal.
Partnerships can also help you collaborate for success. For BAM, there was data missing from their supply chain, so they relied on Green Story’s database to fill in the gaps. They indeed explained, “Green Story has access to the kind of data that we would never have access to, or it would take us years to get access to. Having this partnership has been so helpful in creating an accurate LCA.”
5. Allows for more meaningful connection with your consumers
The findings from LCA’s also inform brands’ marketing and communicating strategy. After their LCAs, Aisle and BAM adopted an educational approach to their marketing strategy as they learned that the use phase of a products’ lifecycle had a significant impact on its environmental footprint. For BAM, 26% of the product’s impact comes from washing the clothes. Aisle learned that to reduce a product’s environmental footprint consumers should hang dry Aisle’s products instead of machine washing them. So, they adjusted their marketing strategy to educate consumers about the impact they have the power to reduce.
Giving the consumers concrete data to see why your products are environmentally friendly also helps them see why they are making the right choice. “Our customers care and want to hear this kind of conversation from us. It makes them choose Vitamin A over another swim brand,” Amahlia explained the benefit of having Green Story’s impact metrics communicate their LCA data. For To The Market, visualizing LCA insights “the way Green Story does makes it accessible for storytelling and consumers who are craving this data.” Communicating the data from your LCA in a relatable and accessible manner can help you connect with your consumers and influence their purchasing behavior.
As Dr. Muthu explained in the first session of our webinar series “the only way you can claim a product is sustainable is by conducting a robust LCA.” The level of credibility and direction it provides a brand is undeniable.