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Circular economy

A Circular Economy makeover for the fashion industry

Fashion is one of the biggest polluters on the planet. Intesa Sanpaolo is helping to reinvent it with the Circular Economy

04/05/2021

  

 

From the energy and water used to make fabric to the vast amounts of worn-once “fast” fashion that ends up in landfill, right now our clothes really are costing the Earth.

The fashion industry is one of the main contributors to the environmental crisis that we face. It is responsible for 10 per cent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At its current rate, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 per cent by 2030 (1). How does that look in the mirror? Not so good.

Together with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – as its first strategic financial services partner – Intesa Sanpaolo is committed to helping the Circular Economy become a reality. Part of that process is helping the fashion industry to be more sustainable throughout the supply chain: from the creation of sustainable fabrics to ensuring that clothes are made to last rather than fall apart and end up in the rubbish dump. Overall, the bank is helping its clients on their transition from linear ways of working to sustainable circular economy ways of doing business.

The average pair of jeans is far from sustainable, using thousands of litres of water to create. But Candiani Denim (2), an Intesa Sanpaolo customer, uses Lyocell fibres in place of cotton fibres, to make its fabric kinder on the planet. Lyocell is derived from pulp from the fast-growing Eucalyptus tree. Compared to cotton, it takes around half the amount of water to process into usable fibres (3). Candiani Denim supplies denim to major global brands, driving change by providing sustainable choices for its clients, the fashion houses, who pass on that sustainable choice to their customers.

Intesa Sanpaolo has a dedicated €6bn Circular Economy funding credit facility for businesses such as Candiani Denim to invest in circular processes. That could mean introducing greener technology, improving energy efficiency or developing greener materials. Intesa Sanpaolo has also established a green bond.

Zegna Group, a luxury men’s clothing manufacturer, is another company backed by Intesa Sanpaolo that is challenging the wasteful practices of the fashion industry. The company has built two hydroelectric energy plants to make its energy usage more sustainable, and now 40 per cent of the energy used by its plants is renewable (4). Zegna Group has also made several investments into recovering by-products from the process of making textiles and putting them back into the production cycle – for example, reusing 20 per cent of the waste water from its plants, which amounts to 70,000 cubic meters of water annually (5).

Making fashion circular is not only good for the planet; it also makes good business sense. Zegna, for example, sells around 15 per cent of its textile by-products to other companies, meaning around 95 tons of fabric is reused rather than thrown away – and this is at a profit for the company.

Consumer habits are also changing, and the trend for reuse and rental of clothing is expected to gain momentum in the coming decade. Research tells us that if each year everyone bought one second-hand item instead of a new item, the benefit would be the equivalent of planting 66 million trees and saving 1.25 billion showers worth of water (6).

Fast fashion is over. The future is all about well-made and long-lasting garments – ones that are kinder to the Earth and cherished by their owners.

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