Fashion is one of the least-sustainable industries. Whilst every garment is different, the long and varied supply chains, production, manufacture, shipping, retail, washing and finally disposal of each item give fashion a significant carbon footprint. In fact American fashion designer and owner of a string of stores across the country, Eileen Fisher, went as far as to describe the clothing industry as “the second largest polluter in the world...second only to oil.” Now as part of an effort by Swedish multinational retail-clothing company to seek new circular approaches throughout the whole fashion value chain, the first winners of the Global Change Awards have been announced. Initiated by H&M Conscious Foundation, the awards seek to change the way fashion is designed, produced, shipped, bought, used and recycled. So who are the winners of the €1,000,000 grant?
As the competition closed on 31 October, more than 2 700 innovators from 112 countries had signed up to share their ideas on new circular approaches throughout the whole value chain of the fashion industry.The H&M Conscious Foundation reviewed the applications with the help of innovation collaborators KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Accenture and the Expert jury. The five ideas considered to have most potential in helping close the loop for fashion was selected as winners and then a total of 22,500 online votes were placed to split the €1 million grant between the five. Presenting the winners of the Global Change Award on February 10th was HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.
Most votes, and a grant of €300,000, were awarded to the Finnish team behind Making waste-cotton new - a technology that dissolves textile waste allows for waste cotton to be used as raw material in the production of new textiles, without loss in quality. As the world population grows so does the demand for consumer goods which in the end cause textile waste. A new technology is being developed that uses an environmentally friendly solvent to dissolve the cotton in textile waste in order to create entirely new textiles. Gathering textile waste is already becoming an established code, and this technology creates the possibility to spin new cotton-like textile fibres from the waste. This reduces landfill waste and saves natural resources, improving the environmental impact on both ends of the value chain.
“This prestigious grant will allow us to lift our technology closer to an industrially viable level. Now we will focus on the further development of technical details, in particular the solvent recovery to ensure economic competitiveness and complete environmental friendliness of our process, says Michael Hummel, spokesperson for the Finnish team behind this project.
Second place with a €250,000 grant was a polyester digester that uses microbes to recycle waste polyester textile that originated in the USA.
Three teams received €150,000; an Estonian online market for textile leftovers - a marketplace for industrial upcycling of spill in production, 100 percent citrus - creating new textile out of citrus juice production by-products based in Italy and a Dutch effort focussing on growing textile fibre under water - utilizing algae to make renewable textile.
To further accelerate the transformation towards a circular fashion industry, the Foundation now launches the Global Change Award Network, an open-source database for innovations.
“When the application period closed, we sat with thousands of amazing ideas. So we decided to create the Global Change Award Network. You can look at it as a matchmaking site, where innovators can present their ideas, get feedback, make contacts and maybe investors can even find the next big thing. A digital greenhouse for innovative ideas,” says Karl-Johan Persson, board member of the H&M Conscious Foundation and CEO of H&M.
The award ceremony on 10 February marked the beginning of a one year innovation accelerator, provided by H&M Conscious Foundation, Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. The program will help the winners develop their ideas, focusing on three main areas; circular economy, innovation and fashion industry connection.
“The level of innovation that we have seen throughout this process is truly inspiring and we aim to advance the strategic business growth of the five Global Change Award winners by guiding and coaching them through the Innovation Accelerator to develop their ideas further”, says Jennie Perzon Strategy Program Lead, Accenture. “For KTH, it is a matter of both urgency and privilege to be a partner to Global Change Award, as we are facing extreme environmental challenges.
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