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Google has announced that it will work with conservation nonprofit WWF Sweden to create a digital platform with environmental sustainability information to inform responsible sourcing decisions in the fashion industry. Combining Google Cloud’s technical capacity with WWF’s assessment, the platform will give an environmental score for each material and sourcing location across the fashion supply chain.
On Wednesday (June 10), Google announced a partnership with WWF Sweden to help develop an environmental data platform tracking the sustainability of materials in the fashion industry. The collaboration will see Google Cloud use its technical capabilities in big-data analysis and machine learning, while WWF employs its knowledge and expertise in assessing raw materials.
The platform is targeted towards the raw material stage in the fashion production process, which accounts for a large portion of the industry’s enormous environmental footprint. Today, fashion accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of water contamination. Raw material supply chains tend to be particularly fragmented, making data difficult to access for many fashion companies.
“It’s our ambition to create a data-enriched decision-making platform that enables analysis of the supply chain in a way that has not been possible before at this scale,” said Ian Pattison, head of customer engineering at Google UK.
Each material and its sourcing location will be scored on different environmental indicators, such as water scarcity, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. To account for the positive impact of opting for more eco-friendly materials, there will additionally be data on the “mitigation benefits” of sustainable choices.
This supply chain data will then be made accessible and visible to fashion companies, with hopes of driving more sustainable decisions in the raw material stage. The raw materials assessed will include cotton and viscose, two of the most common textiles used in the fashion industry, as well as others to be announced.
“WWF’s partnership work with companies has always been motivated by the need to drive real transformation at the largest possible scale,” said CEO of WWF Sweden Håkan Wirtén, who added that the plan is to “make it open source so that hopefully it can help with the transformation of a whole industry.”
This isn’t the first time that Google and WWF has partnered up with fashion companies in order to use its technology to improve sustainability in the field. In 2019, Google Cloud announced a pilot project with Stella McCartney to look into the supply chain of raw materials in major clothing manufacturers.
WWF Sweden, on the other hand, collaborated with furniture giant IKEA in 2018 to create a similar tool that analyses the environmental footprint of different textile materials. Both IKEA and Stella McCartney will continue to be involved in the consultation process of the latest WWF-Google partnership platform.
As the sustainable fashion trend continues to grow, more attention is now focused on the eco-friendliness of raw materials. Recently, a new nonprofit organisation was launched to specifically work on accelerating innovation in the sustainable and vegan material space. Called the Material Innovation Initiative, the group hopes to fast-track the development of plant-based ingredients and lab-grown technology that can be used in all industries that source raw materials, from fashion to furniture and automotive companies.
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