How can game-changing ideas from 151 countries spark the shift toward a circular, waste free fashion industry?

The Global Change Award was created in 2015 by the H&M Foundation, in collaboration with Accenture and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Its goal is to find game-changing innovations that help protect our planet and improve our living conditions. For the past three years, the annual challenge gathered over 8,000 revolutionizing ideas on how to accelerate the shift from a linear (or “take, make, waste”) to a circular (or “take, make, take, make, take, make”) fashion industry.

In 2018, the Global Change Award received more than 2,600 applications from 151 countries. Unique patterns and new insights to help catalyze the move to circular fashion were identified by leveraging Accenture’s capabilities in analytics and data visualization on the application dataset.

“We’re in an era where sustainability is high on the purpose agenda.”
Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture Global Retail

How can fashion tech act as a driver of sustainable fashion?

Innovation is crucial for the development of circular business models. Emerging technologies allow organizations to create value in a circular economy and drive new communication channels, processes and ways of working to ultimately enable better use of resources and economic growth. Fashion tech concepts will be important drivers of the circular fashion transformation. These include:

Digital technology:

  • Wearables
  • Circular Consumption Models
  • Connected Supply Chain

Physical technology:

  • 3D Solutions
  • Nanomaterials
  • Robotics

Biological technology:

  • Bio based materials
  • Renewable Energy and Bioenergy
  • Biomimicry

A real transformation is needed to unlock the full value of circular fashion tech: revisiting business models, customer experiences and channels. The same applies for internal operations including organization, capabilities and processes. The focus is now on being interactive, interconnected, nimble and agile.

Unlocking value also needs new ways to collaborate across traditional borders. Open innovation is increasingly playing a role across industries and enables the use of external technology, knowledge capital, solutions and resources early on in an innovation process. More partnerships are created; large global organizations collaborate with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to increase innovation, create unique new value and find their purpose.

For retailers, the future is a battle for relevancy and authenticity aligned to the brand’s purpose and sustainability can act as a powerful purpose. A person may not be looking to just buy a pair of shoes – she wants to feel like her purchase will not have a negative environmental impact. A trusted retailer can offer products made in a sustainable way – a strong differentiator in a crowded market.

Purpose-driven women

More purpose-driven female innovators in the fashion industry are needed to create a sustainable industry for the future. Fashion tech can act as a bridge to getting more women into tech and digital fluency can empower women to excel in their careers.

The report features portraits of key women involved in the Global Change Award program and what motivates them.

Enabling the shift to a circular economy

To unleash its full potential, the circular economy requires fundamental changes in our ways of working, designing, producing and consuming. Making the shift requires knowledge, network and funding.

  • Network and skill-building: The Global Change Award’s accelerator program is a good example of this new way of working. It includes skill building, a global network, industry access and coaching. The partners behind the grant and the accelerator program apply their diverse and unique capabilities to help make the fashion industry more sustainable.
  • Funding: There are multiple root causes as to why securing funding is especially challenging for fashion innovators in circular economy. We’ve identified 5, including lack of suitable infrastructure, limited patient capital and overstated risks.

It’s time to rethink fashion. Together.

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