11 March 2021

Sustainable Innovation 2021

Written by Published in Fashion
Photo: Dr. Noki NHS, Noki House of Sustainability Photo: Dr. Noki NHS, Noki House of Sustainability

Whilst sustainability is high on the global agenda for policy makers, business and citizens, the speed and scale of change is far from adequate. This is particularly true in the global fashion and clothing industry. Professor Martin Charter, in partnership with sublime magazine, introduces the 23rd International Conference of Sustainable Innovation 2021.

Sustainable, structural and systemic change in global fashion and clothing sectors is now paramount and presents both challenges and opportunities for innovation.

Sustainable Innovation 2021 will provide an insightful and critical platform to discuss issues associated with accelerating sustainability in the fashion and clothing system. Pioneers, innovators, thought-leaders and change-makers from academia, brands, businesses and industries across fashion, clothing, textiles, sportswear, accessories, retail, and technology sectors are invited to explore policy changes, new business models, circular processes, product-service design, supply chain traceability, technological solutions and consumer behaviour shifts focused on radical change that advances sustainability in the global fashion and clothing system.

Sustainable Innovation 2021 will include invited and refereed papers from academics, business leaders, policy makers, entrepreneurs, innovators, designers, scientists and technologists. The international conference will create a unique space for learning, thinking and networking. Delegates will come globally from international brands and corporations, SMEs and start-ups, as well as academia, government and NGOs. The conference is supported by an international Advisory Board.



  • Clothing waste is increasing worldwide. It is estimated that 60% of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made. The UK fashion industry sends over 300,00 tonnes of clothing waste to landfill each year and the US has doubled its clothing waste from 7 to 14 million tonnes in the past two decades; and both UK and US consumers throwaway over 32kg of clothing per person per year.
  • Youth-driven climate change activism worldwide is bringing issues to the public conscience. Yet youth is also the key consumer of fast fashion and brands continue to feed the demand for newness in the age of social media, where some items of clothing last for 1 Instagram post.


  • European and other national policy makers are waking up to the challenge. In March 2020, the European Commission announced a proposed Strategy for Textiles in the Circular Economy Action Plan 2.0 that aims to address fast fashion and boost the EU market for sustainable and circular textiles, including textile reuse.
  • The French government announced a ban on the destruction of unsold non-food stock including all clothing and accessories, coming into force by 2023, obliging retailers and manufactures to increase re-use or recycling.


  • Fashion uses 25% of all chemicals produced worldwide, is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution, accounts for 10% of carbon emissions (more than aviation and shipping combined) and every 1 kg of cloth generates 23 kg of greenhouse gas. Yet the scale and speed of production is not reducing, which means that the sector’s contribution to climate change remains extremely high.
  • Resulting from increased NGO activity, brands, retailers and manufacturers are now required to pass more stringent chemical management requirements through global supply networks.
  • The plastics crisis is driving the search for new sustainable materials and we are witnessing a significant increase in the innovation and commercialisation of textiles made from recycled, natural and bio-based raw materials. Despite new textile innovations, driven by start-ups and material innovators, the industry needs to provide better financial support and investment to scale these up into commercially viable solutions


  • Big data analysis and artificial intelligence is being used to increase targeted sales. However, it isn’t being used for more precise forecasting to reduce excess supply and over-production that is resulting in growing clothing waste.
  • The adoption of wearable technologies is increasing. This has sustainability implications along entire supply chains, with increased ‘end of life’ waste issues if products are not designed to enable separation and disassembly.


To accelerate sustainability in Fashion & Clothing sectors there is a growing need for:

  • Systemic view of the fashion and clothing business to understand the complexity of global value chain networks.
  • Implementation of demand-side and supply-side public policy instruments that drive product sustainability.
  • The emergence and up-scaling of new disruptive eco-innovators.
  • Learning from other sectors approaches to product sustainability and circularity.
  • Commercialisation, range-widening and up-scaling of renewable material manufacturing.

Sustainable Innovation 2021 is being organised in March 2021 to tackle these issues and will include 50 invited and research based papers from internationally recognised expert thinkers and practitioners. The conference is the 23rd in a series of international conferences going back to the mid-1990s that have been organised through Europe and the US and attracted 3000 delegates from 50 countries. Sustainable Innovation 2021 is aligned to the International Year of Creative Economy and Sustainable Development, 2021.


The founder and creator of conference series, Professor Marin Charter will chair Sustainable Innovation 2021 and has been there from the beginning. After attending The Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 he co-founding The Centre for Sustainable Design ® (CfSD) at the University for the Creative Arts in 1995. Now 25 years on CfSD is firmly located in UCA’s new Business School for the Creative Industries where sustainability is a key research theme.





Sustainable Innovation 2021, 23rd International Conference
Accelerating Sustainability in Fashion, Clothing, Sportswear & Accessories

Online Conference: 15th-21st March 2021 Business School for the Creative Industries University for the Creative Arts, Epsom, UK

Programme: Sustainable Innovation 2021 Conference

Contact: For more information on Sustainable Innovation 2021, please contact: Professor Martin Charter

The Centre for Sustainable Design ®
Business School for the Creative Industries
University for the Creative Arts
Tel: + 00 44 (0) 1252 892878       

Visit: The Centre for Sustainable Design ®


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