Some people have this strange idea that sourcing raw materials and tracking how sustainable they are is the hardest thing to do in the world. What if Google could make life easier for us, like how it does with the rest of our everyday lives? Well once again Google is doing the hard work for us with their new partnership with WWF Sweden.
This new partnership is set to analyse over twenty raw materials that are commonly used in fashion, which includes both synthetics and natural products, through a dashboard which is being built to help fashion brands specifically. Each organisation will score the material along with the location it was sourced from, and look at specific details such as water scarcity, air pollution as well as estimating impacts like greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. This is building on a previous project carried out that was specifically used for tracking cotton and viscose.
A tool like this is crucial for the fashion industry, especially since the World Bank estimated that the industry currently accounts for up to twenty percent of wastewater and up to eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions, in research presented by Quantis and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The majority of fashions carbon footprint is a result of raw materials, but not a lot of it is tracked.
This project is aiming to combine the learning capabilities of Google machinery with knowledge from WWF about the environmental impact of a products lifetime, so that brands can start to make better decisions about working with raw materials and the suppliers they come from. Despite working with Stella McCartney on the test pilot, Google is not naming brand partners, although they have said that this will include luxury partners, denim and athletic brands. If brands have access to key information such as how much air pollution is in specific areas or how much waste can be produced during the production period, they can begin to make more sustainable decisions about how they source materials. WWF is going to provide data surrounding risks, life cycle assessment that will have an estimate on the environmental impacts in the lifetime of a product, as well as the strength of sustainability solutions for raw materials. WWF will also be providing a framework that will calculate and process all the data. Google will be providing access to their Google Earth Engine data, with the images from satellites and computing systems that can derive insights from complex data.
The platform will also have the ability to help with mitigation, and allow brands working with specific suppliers to take specific actions with the community in the area, in a bid to reduce harmful environmental impacts. The data collected will show the regional differences during different seasons and will automatically update regularly, so the platform can be used for a longer period of time. It will also work alongside the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s material sustainability index and Textile Exchange’s raw materials assessment so that is specific to fashion and can be used as a tool for the whole industry.
With this tool, we could be able to take more steps in the right direction to have a more sustainable fashion industry.