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A road to conscious ecosystem: D2C is driving a change with sustainability

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The direct to consumer model is catching the retail sector by a storm. The ecosystem is growing strength to strength through funding, unicorns, innovation, and much more. 

As per recent reports, 800 D2C brands are operational in India as of date and the overall market size was around $44.6 billion in 2021. And, the number is expected to grow past the $100 billion mark by 2025.   

The purchasing power for consumers has also drastically shifted to Millennials, and they are looking for a brand which has a customer-centric approach and has adopted environmental practices in their business. The word sustainability is fast becoming a buzzword in the D2C ecosystem. With shifting consumer behaviour and most of them demanding environment-friendly products, it is time for the brands to rethink their offerings. 

Today, the environmental cost of a brand’s production and supply chain process is at the top of the mind of every D2C brand. With consumers being more aware about their consumption, the D2C brands are fast looking to adopt green alternatives and contribute their bit to making the planet more liveable. 

So what are the parameters that these sustainable brands follow? The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has introduced BRSR, a reporting mechanism that gives a baseline to draw comparison between environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals across companies and sectors. BSBR is framed around three aspirations: adapting to and mitigating climate change impact, inclusive growth and transitioning to a sustainable economy.

The basis of sustainability is somewhere guided by the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) formulated by the UN and adopted by India. 

Speaking about these goals, Anurag Singh Khangarot, Founder, Aachho, said that taking into consideration these goals, there are around six areas that the fashion industry as a whole must consider towards sustainability. These are: 

  1. Utilizing eco-friendly fibres and cloth materials that have better recycling alternatives and pollution-free end-of-life disposal 
  2. Manufacturing innovation which is needed to reduce the environmental impact of creating and processing raw materials, prints, garments, etc.
  3. Fair wages and conducive working conditions for workers to promote social equality and growth
  4. Enhanced lifetime value and use of fashion to combat the issue of fast-fashion by preservation and optimisation of hand-made techniques to enhance the quality as well as the value-quotient of garments
  5. Optimised end-of-cycle through recycling and upcycling so that they do not end up in landfills
  6. Efficient and eco-friendly supply chains and logistics through local product sourcing, using energy-efficient transportation, etc.

As an ethnic fashion brand in India, Aachho, too, is taking considerable steps to integrate sustainability. It refrains from using synthetic fibres to create its collections and places high importance on up-cycling all the leftover or extra fabric, creating them into accessories such as bags, diaries, etc. 

India, being so massively populated, it is imminent that people are aware of how climate change is affecting their lives on a daily basis. Sustainability is clearly a growing area of focus regardless of the industry, and companies ought to become more sustainability inclined. “With an increasing number of people becoming conscious, brands in India are choosing to use sustainability as an integral part of their business and outreach strategy. Fashion or textile companies have started practicing optimisation of garmenting waste and inputting that to circular models. They make beautiful garments from up-cycled fabrics which slow down industrial waste, and are not overpriced but well-liked by customers for their aesthetics and durability. Even the government has put in parameters to make sure companies are making an effort to use more sustainable processes and are also rewarding companies that pledge to be sustainable,” shares Shaan Shah, Chief Executive Officer, Freakins.

Environmental-friendly approach v/s Cost

As a developing country, Indian consumers are still finding that sweet balance between sustainability and the price they pay for that sustainability. Rimjhim Hada, Founder, Aachho, highlighted this, “In terms of knowledge, I feel there is awareness and an increased shift in the mindset of people to adopt more sustainable fashion choices. This is because while the standards of living and purchasing powers have definitely increased in recent years, they are still far less in comparison to developed countries. Moreover, when it comes to education, brands also play a crucial role.”

If you look back at a decade ago, Indian consumers were extremely vary of the price points of goods they intended to purchase – they didn’t believe in investing a lot at once. Gaurav Pushkar, Co-founder, DaMENSCH said that it was okay with them to purchase more frequently if it came at a lesser cost. “With sustainable goods not available at their affordable price points, the habit of buying sustainable, and therefore costly goods, did not develop. However, with time, as people are becoming more aware and are understanding the predicaments of fast fashion on the environment, we are seeing a positive change in the mindset with people willing to pay a slightly higher price for products that support the cause,” he adds. 

The pandemic, too, has immensely contributed to the recent surge witnessed in the purchase of sustainable clothing and products. “Post the pandemic, the awareness of sustainability has increased significantly in Indian consumers and most of them are shifting their attitude towards it. With the population becoming more educated about the environment, they want to reduce their carbon footprint and choose to be more conscious. They have started to question what they are buying and are looking for solace from brands. Conscious and aware consumers will eventually shift to brands that are committed to sustainability. India has the largest youth population and the more the youth is getting educated about environmental issues, the more inclined towards buying and promoting sustainable fashion. The Gen-Z crowd, especially, is less forgiving when it comes to supporting brands that are not following sustainable and ethical means,” Shah highlighted.