Google and WWF partner on sustainable fashion platform

11 June 2020

WWF Sweden and Google are to partner to create a data platform to help the fashion industry make more responsible and sustainable sourcing decisions.

The organisations will collaborate on a platform that updates previous work to provide more comprehensive data on raw materials in clothing manufacturers’ supply chains and the risks around various textiles and raw materials.

Each material and sourcing location will be scored 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.

Google said the fashion industry accounted for 20% of wastewater and 2-8% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, and this could rise by as much as 50% by 2030.

Much of the impact occurs at the raw materials stage in the production process, where supply chains can be highly fragmented, it said, and gathering and assessing data at scale was a challenge. 

Fashion brand Stella McCartney has been pivotal in shaping the concept of the platform since starting a collaboration with Google Cloud last year, and will be the first brand to test it. WWF Sweden and long-term partner Ikea created a similar tool in 2018.

The new platform will include cotton and viscose as well as numerous other raw materials based on WWF data and knowledge. WWF and Google are also in consultation with a large number of other fashion, luxury, denim, and athletic brands and retailers.

The platform will be able to be used on a standalone basis or as a complement to existing efforts, the partnership said.

Ian Pattison, head of customer engineering, retail, Google UK/ IE, said the aim was to create a data-enriched decision-making platform that enabled analysis of the supply chain in a way that has not been possible before at the same scale.

“Partnering with WWF brings together Google Cloud’s technical capacity, including big-data analysis and machine learning, and WWF’s deep knowledge of assessing raw materials,” he said. “Together, we can make supply chain data visible and accessible to decision makers, and drive more responsible and sustainable decisions.”

WWF Sweden chief executive Håkan Wirtén said that the organisation’s partnership work had always been motivated by the need to drive transformation at a large 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,” Wirtén said.

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