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“After climate change, now ‘biodiversity’ is the next frontier in sustainable fashion,” McKinsey

Photo: McKinsey and Company

No wonder that climate change is a thought-provoking and broadly discussed topic in the arena of sustainable fashion. But according to McKinsey & Company, a widely known American management consulting firm, biodiversity loss is another area that must be looked upon with greater importance to be addressed, discussed, and taken into concern for finding pragmatic solutions. As it is declining faster than at any other point of human history, the trend must be decelerated before time ticks away.

Why thinking about ‘biodiversity’ in the midst of a great pandemic?

Even in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, sustainability has remained as one of the most prevalent issues taken by the consumers, investors and regulators if not the most talked one. Consumer sentiment says that two-thirds of them are more aware of climate change and it is more important to them since before Covid-19. But McKinsey says climate change is not the only one topic to be discussed.

McKinsey wrote, “But while much has been written about the fashion industry’s impact on climate change, less well known and well covered in the industry’s heavy footprint on biodiversity.” The reason why it matters is, we are inexorably intertwined with biodiversity for our food, energy, keeping the integrity of our air quality, freshwater, soil, and regulating climate. But unfortunately, biodiversity is declining at an even faster rate than ever before.

McKinsey said, “One million species, between 12 percent and 20 percent of estimated total species, marine and terrestrial alike, are under threat of extinction.” The current rate of global biodiversity loss is estimated to be 100 to 1000 times higher than the background extinction rate and expected to still grow in the upcoming years.

Who are to blame for the loss?

According to this global consulting firm, the apparel industry plays a massive impact on biodiversity loss. “Apparel supply chains are directly linked to soil degradation, conversion of natural ecosystems, and waterway pollution,” the firm wrote. But the industries also came up with ideas and activities from time to time for restoring the damages they have done which is positive.

What is the solution?

McKinsey published an article on 23 July. In their article, they examined the apparel industry’s largest contributors to biodiversity loss, how companies can strategically mitigate that loss, and what brands can do to boldly lead the industry’s biodiversity efforts.

Based on their analysis, they have identified the apparel sector’s five largest contributors to biodiversity loss. They are: Cotton agriculture, Wood-based natural fibres/man-made cellulose fibres (MMCFs), Textile dyeing and treatment, Microplastics and Waste.


To strategically mitigate the loss, they have suggested the brands to do the following things:

  1. Scaling up innovative materials and processes: Cotton, a seemingly innocent fibre has a negative effect on its association with pesticides, water consumption and water pollution. It is needless to say about the manmade cellulosic, and synthetics. That is why more sustainable and better alternatives have to be brought. More investment and innovation are needed to come up with more sustainable processes.
  2. Taking an aggressive stance against waterway pollution: Brands must also take an ‘aggressive stance’ against waterway pollution. Since many suppliers in developing countries lack the resources and knowledge to monitor their chemical uses, suppliers should at least comply with Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (ZDHC MRSL), and Wastewater Guidelines, which regulate the use of hazardous chemicals and wastewater discharge.
  3. Leading the way in education and empowering consumers: Brands can help further educate consumers about what their responsibilities to minimize the impact of their actions on biodiversity loss. Simple behavioral adjustments and consumption choices can have substantive results. Using a piece of clothing nine months longer, according to a 2012 Waste & Resources Action Programme study, can reduce its associated carbon emissions by 27 percent, water use by 33 percent and waste by 22 percent.
  4. Relentlessly pursuing zero waste: To protect biodiversity, one of the best steps for the apparel sector is to stop making too many clothes. Though manufacturers recycle roughly 75 percent of preconsumer textile waste, the remaining 25 percent primarily ends up in landfills or is incinerated—without ever having been worn, though some of it could be donated.

McKinsey expects that biodiversity will become a greater concern for consumers and investors in the years to come. “COVID-19, instead of slowing the trend, has accelerated it—perhaps because people now understand more deeply that human and animal ecosystems are interdependent,” the firm said. They think that it is high time for the apparel industry, which to date has contributed heavily to biodiversity loss, to clean all the mess and restore the world to a safer version for mankind.



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