Creating Tomorrow: future-proofing our planet

I grew up in Stroud, a sleepy little town in Gloucestershire, UK. I might have lived in London for more than half my life, but Stroud is still home. Up until a few weeks back, its biggest claim to fame was the fact that once a year lots of people throw themselves down a near-vertical hill to chase a large cheese. (They keep an ambulance at the bottom to collect the bruised bodies and cart them off to the nearest hospital.)

Today, Stroud is revelling in its status as the home of Extinction Rebellion. Or, as the Guardian described it: ‘Stroud, the gentle Cotswold town that spawned a radical protest’.

So, what’s my contribution to this war on climate change – and it is a war, make no mistake.

I run a company that forecasts trends and tells brands and retailers what products and experiences consumers will want to buy in the future. Forecasting the need for more sustainable businesses practices isn’t hard – we’ve been doing that for years – and now that the clamour from the consumer is getting louder and louder, those brands and retailers are sitting up and paying attention. But helping brands make more and more products could be construed as somewhat counterintuitive when it comes to saving the planet.

The fashion industry in particular faces significant challenges when it comes to environmental responsibility. The industry impact keeps us up at night: one garbage truck of clothes is burned or landfilled every second – that’s enough to fill 1.5 Empire State Buildings every day. The amount of water it takes to make one cotton shirt (2,700 litres) can provide clean drinking water for one person for over two years. And this is just the tip of the dismal data iceberg.

For over 20 years, WGSN has been a leader in product and design innovation. Our team of global experts have provided business strategy and design solutions that have consistently grown our clients’ businesses. This isn’t lip service. From predicting the rise of athleisure in 2007 (now a billion-dollar industry) to helping create the era of Millennial Pink, we’re proud (and sometimes humbled) by our impact on the global fashion, lifestyles, beauty and consumer industries. It’s an applied science to predict which products and services will resonate but it’s the human element that understands what truly matters to people.

What matters to our employees and business is helping our clients implement sustainable business practices and strategies. We can and will do better. Internally, we’ve established a sustainability task force to assist our clients in minimising their environmental impact and maximising what they have. This includes a wide range of forecast analysis ranging from materials (compostable plastics, two-dip denim processes, and lab-grown packaging) to retail strategies (the rise of re-commerce, last-mile delivery options, and the circular economy).

We are also shining a light on best-in-class case studies, so our clients can learn from others, and partnering with professors and other sustainability experts to ensure our advice and insight is the very best it can be.

Like many businesses, we can’t turn the ship overnight, but we are committed to steering ourselves and our clients towards a more sustainable future before it’s too late.

I don’t want people to stop buying fashion, or make-up, or products for their home full-stop. The consumption of products and experiences is part of the fabric of so many cultures. Joy, self-expression, wellbeing, community and connections can all be enhanced through the brilliant design and creation of either. We must now make sure that in their creation we are enhancing the lives of all and our planet, not the reverse.

Ultimately, we want people to buy better. Everyone benefits from this scenario. The consumer. The brand’s bottom line – margins can be balanced, lead-times better managed, less discounting, less landfill. And, of course, the planet.

We are in this together. From Stroud to Shanghai and back again.

Follow me on InstagramTwitter and LinkedIn.

For the latest trends, follow WGSN on InstagramFacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.