Design out waste and pollution

The fashion industry’s design and manufacturing innovations have led to substantial advantages, including water and stain repellence, as well as increased durability. Yet a number of the chemicals behind these innovations raise concerns due to their potential adverse effects during clothing production, use, and after-use phases.

Many of these potentially harmful substances can be designed out by creating new fibers that fill vital functions—versatility, lightness, ease of care—but come with a much lower production footprint. One way to do this is waterless dyeing, an innovation that helps mitigate the industry’s toxic wastewater discharge from clothes dyeing, which accounts for 20 percent of industrial water pollution globally.

There’s even room to innovate with ‘moonshot’ solutions in areas where progress is scarce—for example, in fabric design. Existing programs that bring together stakeholders to spark innovation include Ashoka’s partnership with the C&A Foundation’s global Fabric for Change initiative, and Fashion for Good, which supports innovation throughout clothing’s production stages.

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