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UK to study environmental impact of fashion industry

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Dr Alana James posing next to several textiles hanging in a room
Dr Alana James: environmental impact of fashion industry relies on the self-reporting of data and is operated on an opt-in basis

The lack of a collective approach to measuring and assessing the sustainability of the fashion industry means many consumers are still unaware of the impact the clothes they buy have on the health of our planet.

Now a major project, led by Northumbria University, will address the issue by bringing together a network of academic experts, manufacturers, major fashion brands and consumers to examine how the environmental impact across the fashion and textiles industry is measured and assessed.

The project has been awarded almost £2m of funding through a joint programme between the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the UK’s national innovation agency Innovate UK.

The aim of the programme is to fulfil UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) ambition to transform the circular fashion and textiles sector. A core component of this mission is to fund Networks that bring together different communities to identify, prioritise and develop emerging research and knowledge exchange challenges.

The project will be led by Dr Alana James of Northumbria University, whose research focuses on creating sustainable change in the future of the fashion industry. She will work alongside colleagues from Northumbria, as well as King’s College London and Loughborough University, covering a variety of expertise, including water, air and soil pollution, forensic science, design, and big data.

They will be joined by representatives from global fashion brands including Barbour, Montane, and ASOS; sustainable clothing companies Agogic and This is Unfolded; campaign groups Fashion Revolution and WRAP; and the Northern Clothing and Textile Network, Newcastle City Council and Newcastle Gateshead Initiative.

Over the next two years the group will work together to gain a better understanding of how the environmental impact of fashion garments is currently measured, sharing their expertise to get a true picture of the scale of the problem.

“There are many issues with the current process for assessing environmental impact within the fashion industry. For a start, it relies very much on the self-reporting of data and is operated on an opt-in basis rather than as a mandatory requirement.”, says Dr Alana James. “We also need to start thinking beyond the carbon footprint of a garment and look at factors such as how microfibres from clothes are shed and the impact this has on the health of our oceans, rivers, soil and air quality.”

Working alongside Dr Alana James are Northumbria academics Dr Kelly Sheridan, a forensic scientist and expert in the transfer of microfibres from clothing; Dr Miranda Prendergast-Miller, an environmental geographer specialising in soil ecology; Professor Anne Peirson-Smith, Head of Fashion and expert in sustainable fashion and youth style; and Professor of Air Quality Management Anil Namdeo, whose research covers the monitoring, modelling and management aspects of air quality.

They are joined by Dr Tom Stanton of Loughborough University, who researchers the impact of clothing fibres on freshwater environments; and Dr Matteo Gallidabino, a Lecturer in Forensic Chemistry at King’s College London, who also specialises in the transfer and impact of microfibres from clothing.

The fashion and textile industry is estimated to be worth £21 billion to the UK economy, and provides more than half a million jobs. But globally, the sector causes 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20 per cent of wastewater. Fashion uses more energy than both aviation and shipping combined. The complexity and reach of the industry means true impact on the environment is not fully understood.

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Sustainability

Purina launches its first Ocean Restoration Program

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Purina Europe launches its first Ocean Restoration Program
Pet care brand is partnering with expert organizations to help restore 1 500 hectares in Europe

Purina Europe is partnering with expert organizations to help restore 1 500 hectares – the equivalent of around 3 700 football pitches – of marine habitats by 2030. Marine habitats provide a home to many species, including fish. Fish is part of Purina’s supply chain because it uses fish by-products, which are parts of fish that are not consumed by humans but provide a valuable ingredient in pet food, so that nothing goes to waste.

The pet care brand is investing in its partners’ ocean restoration solutions across Europe, with the aim of making these effective and scalable. Each partner targets species that are critical to restoring local marine habitats but are being depleted. The first phase of the program will last three years and prioritizes the development of research, a measurement framework and the conditions needed to scale up the restoration solutions efficiently and effectively. The second phase is planned to start in 2026 and will focus on scaling the proven solutions.

The Seagrass Consortium, represented by one of its founding partners, Sea Ranger Service, are building solutions to plant seagrass meadows, a key habitat-forming species, helping with biodiversity and capturing carbon. Oyster Heaven is using natural materials to reconstruct lost oyster reefs. Oysters generate biodiversity, provide a home for a multitude of different species and are natural water filterers, removing pollutants including excess nitrogen which helps improve water quality. Better water quality allows more sunlight to reach the seagrass meadows, enabling them to flourish.

Urchinomics is removing excess sea urchins, which have overgrazed seaweed (in this area, kelp) beds since their natural predators have diminished significantly. Their removal will help kelp to rebound. Seaweed acts as a natural purifier of water, providing habitats, food, and energy for many marine organisms, whilst absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon. SeaForester is using techniques such as mobile seaweed nurseries to restore rapidly disappearing seaweed forests.

“We are delighted to launch Purina Europe’s first Ocean Restoration Program. With marine biodiversity declining dramatically, collective restoration efforts are required. At Purina, we are committed to playing our part to help address the marine biodiversity loss in our extended supply chain. Therefore, together with our partners, we are taking an active role in helping restore marine habitats at-scale in Europe,” says Kerstin Schmeiduch, Director of Corporate Communications and Sustainability at Purina Europe.

“The structure of the program enables the group of expert partners working on restoring critical species across Europe to scale their solutions and share knowledge and expertise. This will help us collaborate efficiently and give the greatest chance of measuring and replicating success. Going forward, the program can contribute to creating training, employment and business opportunities for local communities,” says Harry Wright, CEO of Bright Tide.

Restoration efforts will take place in France (Arcachon Bay), the Netherlands (including Zeeland), Norway (Tromsø), and Portugal (Cascais & Peniche), while additional sites in Germany and the UK are being evaluated.

The Ocean Restoration Program is part of Purina Europe’s broader commitment to helping advance the regeneration of ocean and soil ecosystems.

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Competition for European Capital of Smart Tourism is now open

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A view of Bordeaux, France
Previous European Capital of Smart Tourism winners include Bordeaux, France, in 2022 | Photo: Guillaume Flandre

The European Commission has launched the 2025 edition of the European Capital of Smart Tourism and the European Green Pioneer of Smart Tourism competitions.

Tourism destinations across Europe can submit their innovative practices of smart and sustainable tourism to become leading examples in European tourism.

As the EU’s third largest eco-system, tourism plays a crucial role in economic growth and job creation. The Smart Tourism initiative recognises cities implementing new digital tools and practices such as equal opportunity and access to visitors, sustainable development and support to creative industries and local talent. With these competitions, the European Commission promotes and awards the future of smart and sustainable tourism in Europe.

To compete for the 2025 titles, cities must demonstrate their innovative tourism practices and submit their applications online. Applications will first be evaluated by a panel of independent experts. In the second step, shortlisted cities will be asked to present their city’s candidature in front of the European Jury. A Jury will select two winners, the ‘European Capital of Smart Tourism 2025’ and the ‘European Green Pioneer of Smart Tourism 2025’. The result will be announced in November 2024. 

Both competitions are open to cities across both the EU, as well as the non-EU countries that take part in the Single Market Programme (SMP).

The 2025 European Capital of Smart Tourism is the sixth edition of the competition. Dublin was selected as the 2024 Smart Capital. Previous winners include Pafos and Seville as 2023 Capitals and Bordeaux and València as the 2022 Capitals. Helsinki and Lyon won the inaugural competition and jointly held the 2019 titles.

Since 2024, there is only one winner of the European Capital of Smart Tourism competition due to a change in competition rules, whereas previous editions featured two winners annually.

The European Capital of Smart Tourism competition is open to cities with a population of over 100.000.

To find out more, visit the European Capital of Smart Tourism Guide for Applicants.

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The importance of sustainability initiatives for modern businesses

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The importance of sustainability initiatives for modern businesses
Research shows that almost three-quarters of employees believe environmentally sustainable companies make for more attractive employers. | Photo: Yan Krukau

Consumers are understandably shopping with more eco-awareness than ever before considering the current climate. Not only do they want assurances that the product was made ethically, but there’s also a growing curiosity about understanding where our products come from and the impact of their journey from mine to market.

At the same time, modern customers are also wising up to greenwashing schemes, meaning they aren’t going to blindly align themselves with the first company that appears to be doing the right thing. It’s important to invest in sustainable policies in the first place, but it’s even more important to invest in the right way.

Here we explore the core benefits to promoting sustainability initiatives across your company and explore how doing so can help to future-proof your organisation in the context of the rising climate crisis.

Retaining and attracting talent

Particularly with younger generations developing a widespread eco conscience, in order to open yourself up to the best candidates in the talent pool, it’s important to demonstrate that your company aligns with these beliefs. Research shows that almost three-quarters of employees believe environmentally sustainable companies make for more attractive employers. This means that not only will you be more appealing to prospective employees, but you’re also more likely to retain talent once they join your organisation. In addition, you may find that employees are happier working in a business that has strong eco-awareness, positively impacting upon staff morale and productivity. 

To leverage your green policies to attract more talent, it’s important to publicise the work you’re doing; keeping everything internalised means prospective hires won’t be able to fully understand the company’s principles. There are several ways you can do this, from advertising your policies on your website in a company handbook to including information on job postings. Celebrate the wins and progress you’ve made to position yourself as a forward-thinking company with a clear social conscience.

Potential cost savings

It’s a common misconception that adopting more eco-friendly policies will eat into your profit margins and come at the expense of business growth. But the opposite is true. There are so many examples of small changes businesses can make that can actually save huge amounts of money over time, helping to fuel more sustainable expansion.

One of the biggest areas for potential savings is in reducing waste. In 2021 alone, businesses in England produced an estimated 33.9 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste. From food to documents, any items that contribute to this huge number ultimately amount to wasted money, while also contributing to the amount that ends up in landfill. Simple things like cutting down on inessential printed documents and using reusable coffee cups can make a huge difference.

In order for businesses to cut down on waste, it’s imperative that you get the buy-in from employees. Make waste reduction schemes accessible and provide staff the tools to reduce waste and ultimately cut costs. Even if teams are working remotely, you could provide training to educate employees on simple techniques to limit their waste, such as how to properly care for equipment to reduce the need for replacements.

Driving innovation

When businesses pledge to operate more sustainably, it encourages people at all levels to find more innovative solutions to long-standing problems. This is because they’re restricted by the ways in which they can use key resources such as water and carbon across the supply chain, encouraging them to use more inventive processes without diminishing the quality of their product or service.

Often, when businesses operate without much of an eco conscience, they’ll do as little as they can get away with and comply with only the lowest environmental standards. However, for companies who are looking to future-proof themselves and stay ahead of the curve, it’s advisable to conduct business in line with the strictest rules.

When the entire business is working to these higher standards, employees are encouraged to be proactive in solving problems to facilitate growth while also sticking to the wider corporate responsibility. Plus, you’ll be safeguarding yourself from future legislation roll-outs, with governments around the world likely to continually enforce more stringent rules to meet long-term sustainability goals.

Understanding the corporate climate

Time is running out for businesses across the globe to reduce their carbon footprint and play their part in protecting the planet for future generations. However large or small, every business has the opportunity to establish eco-friendly principles that can make a huge difference in their local communities and beyond. Best of all, your actions may just inspire others to do the same.

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