As consumer pressure grows for fashion brands to become more sustainable, clothing businesses in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are being offered support to lessen the environmental impact of their products through a new programme run by Nottingham Business School, part of Nottingham Trent University.
The Big House Sustainable Fashion Accelerator (SFA) programme will help small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) overcome the difficult technical and commercial challenges of adopting a sustainable strategy.
For many, the changes needed can be challenging, such as using different materials and manufacturing, dyeing and finishing techniques; reducing waste and transport; making products that are easier to recycle; and adopting leading edge technologies.
Lynn Oxborrow, Big House programme lead and Associate Professor in Small Business and Supply Chain Management at Nottingham Business School, said: “Ultimately the most effective way to reduce fashion’s environmental footprint is to make and sell less and provide items that consumers want to keep in use for longer – but commercially, this goes against the grain.
“Reducing the social impact of clothing could involve choosing responsible suppliers; investing in wages, training, working conditions and other benefits; and improving transparency across the supply chain. This can increase costs and reduce the flexibility that enables fashion to be fast and responsive.”
The SFA programme is designed to help SMEs to design and sell more sustainable fashion by sharing technical knowledge and expertise, promoting peer learning and innovative collaborations, and providing a test bed for SMEs in D2N2 to overcome some of the challenges they face.
Up to ten businesses will be supported in 2021 / 22 with access to a workshop programme on identified common themes, such as alternative materials or ways to market sustainable fashion; expert mentoring, networking and pitching opportunities with potential advisors, clients or investors. Participants will also be offered grants and access to student expertise and consultancy projects.
The SFA will launch with an event on Thursday 2 December from 9.30 to 12.30 with a keynote presentation from sustainable fashion expert, Charlotte Turner. Charlotte has supported international brands, retailers and manufacturers to set up and run responsible businesses with long-term sustainability strategies, create and sell high quality products and services in the most socially just and environmental ways possible, and communicate authentically about sustainability.
Through roles including head of Sustainable Fashion and Textiles at leading consultancy Eco-Age, and as a British Fashion Council mentor, she has supported numerous start-ups, SMEs and large-scale global brands, retailers and manufacturers to understand, manage and improve their social and environmental performance through training, developing and implementing long-term sustainability strategies, action plans and tools, and introducing alternative materials and processes to supply chains. She has then guided clients to transparently communicate these strategies and achievements with diverse audiences across multiple media platforms.
The online event will be fully interactive, with panel discussions, Q and A sessions and opportunities to get involved.
Dr Oxborrow added: “Small and new fashion businesses may lack the resources and impetus to change the whole supply chain, but they can be the source of amazing innovations that can lead to positive changes. But given the challenges they face, SMEs need a helping hand to enable them to find ways to make fashion more sustainable. The Sustainable Fashion Accelerator aims to provide that.”
The SFA builds on NTU’s active research in the area of sustainable fashion, including the Durability Dozen and clothing longevity research.