Google and WWF collaborate to make fashion sustainable

10 June 2020 by Liam Goldsworthy
blog author

Google has joined forces with WWF Sweden to enable the fashion industry to source materials more responsibly.

Together they will create an environmental data platform to improve sustainability throughout the industry, especially during the raw materials process.

The raw materials stage during production is where the impact can hit hardest, as assessing data at scale is challenging. The fashion industry is currently responsible for 2-8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20 per cent of wastewater - which could rise by a staggering 50 per cent by 2030.

The collaboration means Google and WWF Sweden will use the platform to fine tune and improve the accuracy and relevance of raw materials assessments.

The platform could be used either on its own or to complement existing efforts, and will look at other raw textile materials, beyond cotton and viscose.

Google Cloud announced a pilot project in collaboration with Stella McCartney at last year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit. The aim of the project, using Google Cloud technology, was to provide a clearer insight into the raw materials of clothing manufacturers’ supply chains.

The fashion designer’s brand will continue to be the first to test the platform, having helped shape it from the outset.

Ian Pattison, head of customer engineering and retail at Google UK/ IE, said: "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.

"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. Together, we can make supply chain data visible and accessible to decision makers, and drive more responsible and sustainable decisions."

Kate Brandt, Google sustainability officer, said: “Sustainability is a challenge that crosses industry boundaries, and we firmly believe that solutions require strong partnerships and collaboration.

“Our ambition is to fill fundamental data gaps by bringing greater accuracy to environmental reporting—ultimately moving toward more sustainable processes. By combining our technology, and with data inputs from many key industry brands and retailers, we believe we can significantly magnify this work together.”

WWF Sweden created a similar tool with IKEA in 2018 to analyse the risk and impact that raw materials used in the textile industry can bring.

Håkan Wirtén, CEO of WWF Sweden, added: "WWF’s partnership work with companies has always been motivated by the need to drive real transformation at the largest possible 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.”

WWF and Google are also in consultation with a large number of other fashion, luxury, denim, and athletic brands and retailers.