The challenge

Insufficient progress despite mounting pressures in the fashion industry 

Under pressure to tackle the huge ecological and social footprint, the fashion industry is introducing various circular innovations to reduce resources, waste and overall impact on the environment. 

While significant resources are being spent on researching and implementing technological solutions, far less is invested in truly understanding the enabling conditions that enable innovations to scale and achieve their full potential.  

Our insights

There is a risk that the sector introduces quick-fix “shallow” solutions that could result in further negative impacts in the future, or continues to operate in a manner that keeps  extractive and socially unjust practices in place despite significant investments in innovations.   

For instance, through Forum's previous circular fashion projects Circular Leap Asia and Tackling Microfibres at Source, we observed that the relational dynamics between manufacturers, brands and retailers during the innovation process prevents the implementation and scaling of deeply transformative innovations. 

As brands and retailers face pressure to make their products more sustainable, a disproportionately larger share of the responsibility and risk is placed on the manufacturers within the production process. Manufacturers may not be prepared or able to absorb the costs of investments in new production methods or equipment, resulting in either unsuccessful implementation of innovations or the inability to mainstream them. 

It is imperative these deeply entrenched practices receive greater awareness, are better understood and eventually removed so the sector can achieve the circular transformation it needs. 

What does this programme aim to achieve?

Rethinking Value Chains: Enabling Systemic Circularity in Fashion aims to generate a set of insights and recommended actions that equip and guide the fashion industry to: 

  1. Identify the factors and conditions that enable an innovation to achieve its full potential, as well as the systemic barriers preventing scaling of innovations, and
  2. Equip stakeholders in finding new ways of working that effectively scale opportunities to catalyse a deep and urgent transition to full circularity in the sector.

How does this programme work?

Forum will convene and lead project partners through two key phases: 1) research of existing innovations to understand the barriers preventing them from scaling, and 2) an innovation phase where we explore prototypes of new ways of collaboration. 

We will also work with other thought leaders to amplify the need for systemic thinking on complex issues, and the importance of dismantling systemic barriers in circularity. 

Join our programme

We envision working with a core group of strategic partners including brands and retailers, suppliers, and other key fashion ecosystem actors. This will be an opportunity for partners to:

  1. Learn: For companies to participate in an inquiry on systemic thinking on circularity and the enabling conditions impacting the scaling of circular solutions. This includes a futures and systems thinking workshop exclusive to partners.
  2. Connect: Work with like-minded and progressive peers and industry experts to identify enabling conditions and deep seated challenges in circularity, and how they approach these challenges. 
  3. Explore: An opportunity to explore pioneering ways of working through the prototyping stage, and how these new ways can support a deep transformation towards circularity in the fashion value chain.
  4. Implement: Potential to mitigate the financial risk of investing in innovations by having a systemic understanding of the conditions for impact.
  5. Communicate: Build on your company’s existing sustainability interventions in circularity by demonstrating and communicating your depth and ambition in going beyond compliance, to investigate deep seated and systemic challenges.

Our partners

This programme is made possible with the generous support of the Flotilla Foundation.

Get involved

If you are interested to know more about this project and how to get involved, please contact Karen Sim, Principal Sustainability Strategist for more information.

Contact Karen