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Google partners with WWF on fashion sustainability platform

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Google has announced a partnership with WWF Sweden to help create an environmental data platform that will enable more sustainability in the fashion industry.

The new data-enriched, decision-making platform aims to help drive responsible sourcing decisions in the fashion industry, by combining Google Cloud’s technical capacity, including big-data analysis and machine learning with WWF’s knowledge of assessing raw materials.

The results both organisations claim will give brands and retailers “greater visibility of impact within their supply chain” and help them make better sourcing decisions, as the platform will score each material and sourcing location on multiple environmental issues such as water scarcity or air pollution, as well as estimating specific impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions and accounting for the ‘mitigation benefits’ of more sustainable sourcing options.

WWF states that the platform is needed to help fashion answer the call to increase sustainability as currently, the fashion industry accounts for 20 percent of wastewater and 2-8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, with this potentially rising by as much as 50 percent by 2030. Much of this impact occurs at the raw materials stage of the supply chain, which can be highly fragmented, and gathering and assessing data at scale is a challenge.

The partnership aims to address these needs by providing a platform that can be used on a standalone basis or as a complement to existing efforts.

Kate Brandt, Google sustainability officer, said in a statement: “Sustainability is a challenge that crosses industry boundaries, and we firmly believe that solutions require strong partnerships and collaboration.

“Our ambition is to fill fundamental data gaps by bringing greater accuracy to environmental reporting—ultimately moving toward more sustainable processes. By combining our technology, and with data inputs from many key industry brands and retailers, we believe we can significantly magnify this work together.”

WWF Sweden and Google to offer fashion brands and retailers a responsible sourcing platform

At the 2019 Copenhagen Fashion Summit, Google Cloud announced a pilot in collaboration with Stella McCartney to use Google Cloud technology to provide a more comprehensive view into raw materials of clothing manufacturers’ supply chains. That work continues with McCartney, added Google, and the British fashion designer’s team have “been pivotal” in shaping the concept of the platform and will continue as the first fashion brand to test it.

This will be combined with WWF Sweden’s work with long-term partner Ikea who created a similar tool in 2018, focused on analysing the risk and impact of various textiles raw materials.

Håkan Wirtén, chief executive of WWF Sweden, added: "WWF’s partnership work with companies has always been motivated by the need to drive real transformation at the largest possible scale.

“This project is an excellent example of how we can take valuable work with a long term partner like Ikea, collaborate with another strong WWF partner like Google to make that work even more powerful, and make it open source so that hopefully it can help with the transformation of a whole industry.”

By collaborating on an updated platform, leveraging all of these data types, it is hoped that it will “further increase” the accuracy and relevance of raw materials assessments. In addition, the new platform will also move beyond cotton and viscose as first announced, to include numerous additional raw materials based on WWF data and knowledge.

As well as Stella McCartney and Ikea, the WWF and Google have stated that they are also in consultation with a large number of other fashion, luxury, denim, and athletic brands and retailers.

Images: courtesy of WWF Sweden by Charlotta Järnmark

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