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Google and WWF team up to drive sustainable fashion sourcing

The two companies have announced a partnership that will give fashion brands improved insight into how they can make their supply chains more environmentally friendly.

Google Cloud has teamed up with wildlife charity WWF Sweden to help the fashion industry boost its environmental efforts. Developing a data platform with a focus on sustainable sourcing, the joint project will give brands the opportunity to monitor the impact of their supply chains and change accordingly in order to support green initiatives.

Although the majority of the industry’s current effect on the planet is down to the raw material stage in a production process (a report by Quantis revealed that 20% of industrial wastewater pollution worldwide is contributed by the washing of textiles), fragmented supply chains also pose a major challenge. Spanning multiple countries, it’s become increasingly difficult to collect data over the years and this is where Google and WWF come in.

Looking to access untapped analytics and push brands to be more succinct with evaluating how their decisions are impacting the environment, the programme will provide a much more holistic view of the supply chain. Alongside Google’s data-crunching power, WWF’s unlimited knowledge of raw materials will undoubtedly improve fashion’s issue with transparency.

Google and WWF Sweden partner to create fashion sustainability ...

Aiming to analyse more than 20 commonly used raw materials (such as synthetics and natural products), the two organisations will score each material and sourcing location on details like air pollution and water scarcity, estimating impacts like greenhouse gas emissions. This is built on an earlier project which tracked cotton and viscose by using AI technology to process data and Google Earth’s invaluable environmental information. Once complete, the tool will additionally account for the positive impact of opting for eco-friendlier materials, offering data on the ‘mitigation benefits’ of sustainable choices.

‘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,’ says Ian Pattinson, head of customer engineering for retail at Google UK. ‘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.’

Now, more than ever, the fashion industry is facing inherent pressure to prove the sustainability of its supply chain, and while it recovers from the disruption brought about by Covid-19, what better time to reevaluate its processes? It’s certainly commercially advantageous to do so.