Animal sustainability adds up to social and environmental?
The number of vegetarians and vegans is growing, and the pressure of consumers, associations and the media on fashion brands not to cause pain and stress to animals is growing as well. It is a contemporary but not new sensitivity, which has grown above all in the criticism of the fur and exotic skins industry but now involves all manufacturers who use skins, feathers, and animal textile fibres.
The production of animal fibres is a minority share of the total volumes of textile fibres, about 1.6 million tons of wool, silk, feathers, equal to 1.5% of the global production of fibres, a much lower quantity compared to the 25.7 million tons of cotton or even the 57 million tons of polyester.
However, the importance of these materials from an economic, aesthetic, and cultural perspective is beyond question. Reading the sustainability reports of top fashion brands tell us the topic is now at the centre of attention, albeit with different and constantly evolving approaches.
There is no shortage of radical positions, such as vegan fashion, which completely excludes the use of raw materials of animal origin; some brand, in the face of campaigns by animalist organizations, has decided to completely exclude one or the other fibre from the collections, as in the case of angora fibre following the PETA complaint about the cruel treatments suffered by rabbits on farms.
However, more moderate approaches, articulated according to each material's specificities, are prevalent, such as concerning compliance with the rules of CITIES, the international regulation for the defence of endangered species.
Beyond the different strategies, the risks to a brand's reputation deriving from a complaint about using materials that make animals suffering remain high. Better think about it in time.
But are fashion brands today able to reassure consumers about animal welfare and not use painful or stressful practices on the animals? And what tools are available to communicate a brand's commitment to animal welfare?
Certification standards have been created for this purpose, for example, in wool the ZQMerino, of The New Zealand Merino Company, or the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), for Mohair the Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS), for cashmere, the Good Aid Trade Foundation's standard cashmere, the Global Traceable Down Standard for feathers, or Moncler's Down Integrity System & Traceability (DIST). A Responsible Alpaca Standard (RAS) is also being defined.
Can we do more? Sure. Beyond certifications, it is necessary to manage and monitor the supply chain based on traceability and transparency, animal welfare, and above all, to avoid that variant of greenwashing that we could define as animal welfare-washing.