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New guidelines have been set out by the retail industry in response to the spike in demand for ethical, cruelty-free and vegan products. The new standards will ensure that vegan fashion items – including clothing, accessories and shoes – must be 100% free of animal products across its supply chain. Though animal welfare and environmental concerns about the fashion industry have not undergone as much scrutiny as other industries such as meat production, experts say that growing awareness will mean that retail businesses should expect more consumer demand for animal-free products.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has just set out new guidelines for businesses to follow to ensure that vegan fashion items are 100% free of animal and animal-derived products. The move by the trade body for stores and online sellers comes as the number of retail buyers trying to source vegan products for the first time has increased dramatically due to the demand for vegan fashion from consumers.
In addition to making sure products do not contain any popular animal-based materials such as leather, suede and wool, the new standard will require businesses to prove that every material and ingredient used in the product, including glues, dyes and waxes, must be 100% animal-free. According to policy adviser Leah Riley Brown at the BRC, if retailers follow the guidelines, then shoppers can be confident that the products they have purchased are indeed 100% vegan.
The BRC has also stipulated that companies should not market a product as “sustainable” just because it can be considered vegan, which only reflects that the item contains no animal-based materials or animal-byproduct ingredients.
BRC’s move comes as shoppers are increasingly in search of ethical, cruelty and animal-free products. While the fashion industry has trailed behind the food sector when it comes to demand for plant-based and vegan products, the vegan fashion market has rapidly begun to pick up due to growing concerns about the climate crisis and the role of fast fashion. According to a poll by research firm Mintel, two-thirds of all Generation Zs – those aged 16 to 24 – were actively trying to make more animal and planet-friendly fashion consumption choices compared to one year ago.
Another study by the Center of Sustainable Business (CSB) at New York University revealed that shoppers across the board are buying more products marketed as ethical and sustainable than ever before, and that this trend is consistent in every consumer product category.
Speaking to the Guardian, research analyst at Mintel Chana Baram said: “It’s no longer enough for clothing to be priced well or to reference the latest trends. Many young people today are likely to be influenced by the Attenborough or Greta effects and are becoming far more aware of the negative effects of fast fashion.”
Globally, vegan-friendly and sustainable fashion businesses are set to experience a watershed year. Not only have a number of independent boutique brands emerged in the market to offer more vegan-friendly choices to shoppers, established brands have taken heed as well to retain customers. Iconic footwear brand Dr. Marten’s, for instance, saw the sales of its vegan boots skyrocket by an astonishing 279%. Meanwhile, Swedish fast fashion behemoth H&M will be making a number of eco-friendly and plant-based products using vegan leather derived from wine waste, and global sportswear giant Reebok revealed its launch for the first plant-based performance running shoe.
Certification for animal-free isn’t the only new standard being set out for the fashion industry amid shifting consumption habits. Recently, Friend of the Earth, a certification body of the World Sustainability Organisation (WSO), launched a new standard for sustainable fashion which covers sourcing, production methods and waste reduction amongst its requirements.
Lead image courtesy of Freepik / Iconfinder / Green Queen.