Solving fashion-industry waste with data

Google and the World Wildlife Fund Sweden are collaborating on a new platform to bring environmental transparency to fashion industry supply chains.
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The fashion industry is responsible for 20 percent of wastewater production and 2 to 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions wordwide. Courtesy Unsplash.

The fashion industry is responsible for 20 percent of wastewater production and 2 to 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions wordwide. Courtesy Unsplash.

A new partnership between Google and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Sweden might just help the fashion industry become less dirty by harnessing the power of data and machine learning.

According to Google, the global fashion industry accounts for a whopping 20 percent of wastewater production and 2 to 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions wordwide, with a potential to rise dramatically in coming years. A significant portion of that waste and pollution occurs at the raw materials stage in production, "where supply chains can be highly fragmented, and gathering and assessing data at scale is a challenge," according to a release.

Google and the WWF want to change that by collaborating on a new platform of data analysis tools that will allow fashion industry decision makers to source their raw materials more responsibly.

“Our ambition is to fill fundamental data gaps by bringing greater accuracy to environmental reporting—ultimately moving toward more sustainable processes,” said Google sustainability officer Kate Brandt. “By combining our technology, and with data inputs from many key industry brands and retailers, we believe we can significantly magnify this work together.”

Google and the WWF have indicated that the platform will track the impacts of cotton and viscose production, which accounts for a large percentage of fashion industry waste, as well as that of "numerous additional raw materials."

"Each material and sourcing location will be scored on multiple environmental issues such as water scarcity or air pollution," Google and the WWF stated. Greenhouse gas emissions and the ‘mitigation benefits’ of more sustainable sourcing options will also be estimated.

Google confirmed that it is already in conversation with a number of retail brand partners, but that companies interested in "further experimenting and building out this platform" should contact Google's sustainability team here.

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