There was a strong focus on potential solutions at the ASBCI conference Time for change – facing up for fashion’s sustainability and ethics challenges, which took place on 8 May in Manchester.

Expert speakers from across the fashion industry and academia gathered together to acknowledge the scale of the challenges facing the sector and highlight practical initiatives, innovative thinking, and business realignments that could help create a sustainable future for fashion.

Speakers made it clear that sustainability is no longer just an optional extra. Not only is there a clear business case for sustainable business models, but legislation is increasingly transforming industry response from the voluntary to the mandatory. 

But, ultimately, sustainability must be win-win. For the fashion industry to have a sustainable future, ethical fashion must make money for businesses and fulfil the consumers’ desire for newness with products that not only have a reduced environmental impact during manufacture but that can also be recycled or reused effectively to reduce the use of future – and finite – resources. It must strive to change behaviours but not wait for consumer pressure to drive positive action. It will involve collaboration at all stages of the supply chain and even between competitors, and businesses that get it right will reap the rewards of both revenue and reputation.

‘This was a fascinating conference on a very important topic for the industry,’ said ASBCI Chairman Dr Alistair Knox. “The incredible attendance proves just how seriously the industry is taking it. The speakers were excellent and we have already had requests to hold a follow-up conference next year as well as more focused technical seminars delving deeper into specific aspects of sustainability, so we are looking into various possibilities to keep the momentum going.”

The conference was hosted by Dr Julie King, deputy dean at the University of South Wales and ASBCI event director, and was sponsored by UL, GreenEarth Cleaning and Coats.