Fashion Sustainability Score Methodology

In the midst of incredible greenwashing, we believe transparency and tangible impact are crucial to building consumer trust and enforcing the so necessary shift in why, how and what we produce, consume and dispose of. This is why we dedicated the past quarter of the year to quantify and qualify the actual impact that Kool and Konscious brands achieve through leveraging on sourcing more input- and output- friendly textiles; producing with optimised cutting pattens; dyeing with innovative colouring technologies; packaging with plastic-free materials and producing on-demand, where possible.

During our research on the status quo impact of fashion, and on the positive impact Kool and Konscious brands achieve, we came to the conclusion that the most relevant indicators to be quantified and qualified are the 1) CO2 emissions and water usage and 2) waste footprint of Kool and Konscious products alongside their degree of circularity. To quantify and qualify the latter we relied on primary research, such as talking to the sourcing companies themselves and where necessary, on secondary research, such as peer-reviewed papers on the impact of all materials in question.

 

CO2 and water savings calculation methodology

To derive the CO2 and water savings for each product we had to look at three key numbers:

1)   The status quo CO2 emissions and water usage & waste for textiles that would be commonly used by mass fashion to create the product at hand;

2)   The CO2 emissions and water usage & waste for the textile used to create the Kool and Konscious product at hand;

3)   The relative weight of the product at hand;

Once we derived those numbers through primary and secondary research, we were able to put together a dynamic formula that recognises the textile of the Kool and Konscious product and its relative weight. Next, it takes the respective CO2 emissions and water usage & waste per kilogram of the respective textile for the Kool and Konscious product and subtracts it from the CO2 emissions and water usage & waste per kilogram of the respective textile used by mass fashion. Finally, the difference is multiplied by the relative weight of the product to derive the product specific CO2 emissions and water usage & waste savings.

CO2 emissions savings = (Status quo textile CO2 emissions - Kool and Konscious textile CO2 emissions) * Product relative weight

Water savings = (Status quo textile water usage & waste - Kool and Konscious textile water usage & waste) * Product relative weight

 

Status Quo CO2 emissions and water usage & waste

To define the values for CO2 emissions & water usage and waste, we looked towards peer-reviewed journals which have performed an extensive analysis with representative sample on the CO2 emissions and water usage & waste by all the conventional textiles that status quo fashion would most commonly resort to for production.

According to our research, the most commonly used textiles by mass fashion are conventional cotton, viscose, linen, wool and polyester. We have taken the respective CO2 emissions & water usage and waste for those conventional textiles and used them as the status quo benchmark to compare Kool and Konscious products.

 

Kool and Konscious CO2 emissions & water usage and waste

 To define the values for CO2 emissions & water usage and waste we have conducted primary research on the textiles and practices Kool and Konscious brands engage in including but not limited to:

 

Textiles:

1)   using pre-waste textiles, such as deadstock textiles (brand new textile leftovers that would have otherwise ended up in landfills)

2)   using recycled or up-cycled materials such as recycled cotton, recycled viscose, recycled linen and more;

3)   using superstar textiles that require lower CO2 emissions and water usage and waste during their life-cycle, such as flax linen, tencel, lyocell, alpaca wool and more;

 

Dyeing:

1)   using natural dyes derived from plants, vegetables and flowers

2)   using chemical free-dyes

3)   using innovative dying technologies such as GiDelave to reduce the emote of CO2 emissions and water usage and waste

 

Production:

 1)   Utilising pattern optimisation software to minimise the amount of textile waste

2)   sourcing and manufacturing locally to avoid CO2 emissions from textile transportation

3)   using fully recycled and recyclable packaging tags and care labels

Kool and Konscious has, is and will continue to stay as informed as possible about the sourcing parties of our partnering brands and more importantly, about the CO2 emissions, water usage and savings and circularity practices those sourcing companies contribute to and engage in.

 

Mixed Textiles CO2 emissions and water usage and waste 

More often than not, products are made of mixed textiles, which complicates the CO2 emissions & water usage and waste calculations. In such cases, our current formula takes a weighted average of the CO2 emissions and water usage & waste of the most popular conventional mixed textiles, such as the cotton-polyester, cotton-viscose and wool-viscose blends and compares it with weighted average CO2 emissions and water usage & waste of the most commonly used textiles by Kool and Konscious, such as organic cotton, lyocell, linen, tencel, bamboo and alpaca wool.

Going forward, we are working on identifying the exact blend of the textiles automatically and calculating a weighted average of the exact CO2 emissions and water usage & waste for the respective textile mix.

 

Other textiles CO2 emissions and water usage and waste

We have to be transparent when saying that we do not have it all covered and are still missing consistent information about less common textiles, such as satin and cashmere. For those, we have used a weighted average of the CO2 emissions and water usage & waste for the most commonly used conventional textiles, such as cotton, polyester and viscose for status quo calculation and the most widely used textiles by Kool and Konscious brands, such as organic cotton, linen and lyocell.

Also, we do not have precise information on the CO2 and water usage & waste for most metals and materials used for accessories, such as watches, complex jewellery and leather goods. Our formula is currently relying on a conservative average from peer-reviewed journals.

 

Circularity score calculation methodology

Quantifying the degree of circularity of each product is something that we are working on. For the time being, there are limitations to publishing such analysis due to the lack of comprehensive quantitative life-cycle analysis of the textiles in question. 

This is why we have opted for a qualitative circularity score, where we evaluate the two arguably collectively-exhaustive alternatives for achieving circularity.

  1. The first being, for the product to circulate back to the value chain efficiently, while adding value and not taking more resources than if a non-circulated alternative were to be used.
  2. And the second - circulate back to nature, without harming it.

 

1. The product’s potential to circulate back to the value chain efficiently

 When it comes to evaluating the first type of circularity - circulating back to the value chain efficiently, while adding value and not taking more resources that if a non-circulated alternative, were to be used, we are looking at two further sub-factors:


1.1 the ease of recyclability of the piece

1.2 the recyclability of the separate product components

 

1.1 Ease of recyclability

Despite close to 90% of clothing being labelled as ‘recyclable’, close to 85% of it do not make it to this stage. Complex sewing structures, glueing, zippers and buttons details call for manual assistance, making the process very labor-, time- and cost-inefficient. Recyclability is, however, crucial in the fight towards mitigating the negative impact of fashion, which is why we push our brands to design with recyclability in mind and we evaluate the respective recyclability potential of each product. 

A point or two are given for products designed with ease of recyclability in mind. That is products that disassemble easily and have little to no amount of details, such as zippers or buttons.

 

1.2 Recyclability of the separate product components

The dream of every recycling facility is to receive single-materials components, such as 100% cotton, or 100% copper, or 100% polyester pieces. In reality, however, the majority of clothing are made of mixed materials, making their potential recycling a tough job.

While innovations exist, such as chemical solutions that can separate the highly popular cotton-polyester blend, separating and recycling mixed textiles remains a big challenge for the recycling world. With this, we evaluate the recyclability of the separate components of each piece and again, are investing efforts in educating our brands on the importance of the materials they choose as to achieve higher circularity rate of their designs.

A point or two are given for products designed with recyclability of the separate components in mind. That is, products made of pure and/or easily recyclable materials.

 

2. Potential to circulate back to nature, without harming it

Now, it would not have been a problem if 85% of the clothing we throw away is not recycled, if they were able to go back to our environment without harming it. Unfortunately, 2/3 of mass fashion is made of polyester, which not only takes centuries to degrade (400 years is the average polyester degrade cycle), but releases thousands of toxic chemicals back into our soils. If not let to degrade, polyester waste is burned, releasing more CO2 emissions and chemicals back to our atmosphere. Either way, the inability for textile waste to circulate back to our environment in a friendly approach is a massive problem for the sustainability of our land, water and air.

With this, we have looked into the potential of all Kool and Konscious products to circulate back to nature without harming it, which we could split into two key factors:

   2.1 The natural potential of the textile to degrade without harming our environment

   2.2 The absence of treatment chemicals that would potentially harm our environment

 

2.1 The natural potential of the textile to degrade without harming our environment 

Textiles such as polyester could be a pretty nasty addition to our lands, water and air if burned or let to degrade freely.

This is why at Kool and Konscious we evaluate the impact that each piece might have on our planet if simply thrown away in our environment and not recycled. We are proud to be listing products made only of natural materials such as linen, wool and bamboo that could easily become one with nature while not only not harming it, but also nourishing it.

 We do have a few products made not of natural materials, such as the bags by Mother Earth, which are made of pre-waste defect packaging. In such case, we look at the issue reversely, realising that the brand is preventing non-healthy waste from entering our landfills and environment.

A point or two are given for products designed with textiles that could easily circulate back to nature without harming it. That is, products made of natural materials such as bamboo, linen, wool, hemp and more.

 

2.2 The absence of treatment chemicals that would potentially harm our environment

Beyond evaluating the potential of materials to degrade nicely in our environment, we also look at the underlying processing they have gone through to ensure no nasty chemicals go back in our nature. For example, conventional cotton, despite being a natural material, is one of our planet’s biggest users of pesticides and so we are not big fans of products made out of conventional cotton.

Dyeing is also a huge issue when it comes to the usage of chemicals. Around 40% of the colorants used by mass fashion contain organically bound chlorine, which is a known carcinogen. Degrading textiles dyes with such colorants means releasing all those chemicals back to our environment.

This lays out why it is paramount for Kool and Konscious to evaluate the planet-friendliness of the processing that textiles used by Kool and Konscious brands go through.

A point or two are given for products designed with chemical-free dyes. That is, products that are veggie-dyed, eco-dyed and/or chemical-free dyed and processed.

 

Going forward

This sustainability score is part of our effort to bring transparency and tangible, understandable results of investing in circular fashion. While this is the alpha version of our score, we are looking to fundraise to expand our research team and dedicate more efforts to deriving even more exact numbers as well as be able to consult all Kool and Konscious brands on how to become even more circular. Right now we do not have all the data and capacity needed to make this a 100% exact score, which is why we are open to and would love to collaborate with organisations to make this a completely reliable score for any brand around the globe to adopt and self-reinforce to be more sustainable and ultimately circular.