Going green for the red carpet

With sustainable fashion on the rise, how can you make small changes to make a big difference?

Article updated: 12 February 2020 9:00am Author: Lucinda Gregory


Most celebrities attending this year’s BAFTAs notably ignored the memo to choose outfits with the environment in mind. However, it’s not only celebrities who spend money on clothes they only wear once. Our research shows among UK adults, one in eight pieces of clothing are never worn or only worn once – that’s 13% of people’s wardrobes*. In fact, as a nation we spend £2.4 billion a year on clothes we barely wear.

It’s estimated that some £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill every year*. Not only is this shocking from a financial point of view as we’re wasting our hard-earned money which could be spent better elsewhere, but we’re also needlessly damaging the environment because we don’t want to be judged for wearing the same outfit twice.

Social media plays a big role in this. In an age where many people will not post an Instagram picture wearing the same outfit twice there is huge demand for quick, cheap clothing. This change in consumer habits has seen the global consumption of clothes double between 2000 and 2014.

In fact, research shows one in three people (30%) buy at least one fashion item a month and a similar number (29%) admit to buying two or three pieces of clothing. We’re spending roughly around £50 a month on average trying to keep up with the latest fashion trends.

Is the fashion industry really that harmful?

One cannot dispute the major role the multi-billion dollar fashion industry plays in the global economy, creating millions of jobs around the world, however its effect on the environment can no longer be ignored.

When asked which industries have the most harm on the environment many of us would think of transport, mining and manufacturing. However, the UN Conference on Trade and Development considers the fashion industry to be the second most polluting industry in the world, consuming more energy than the shipping and airline industries combined, as well as being responsible for producing 20% of waste water and about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The fashion industry is standing up and taking action though. Last year at the G7 summit French President Emmanuel Macron announced his plan to advance sustainability in the fashion industry, enlisting the help of Kering CEO Francois-Henri Pinault. Pinault, who is responsible for luxury brands such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, has been appointed to unite brands from around the world in reaching their sustainability targets.

It is not just luxury brands recognising the need for change. Zara, the biggest brand of the third largest apparel company in the world – Inditex – has pledged to use 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025. Zara has also partnered with the Red Cross to donate leftover stock.

How can we make a difference?

We’re starting to see some celebrities try to make changes and re-wear outfits. Joaquin Phoenix has broken the mould this year with his pledge to wear the same suit, designed by leading voice in sustainable fashion Stella McCartney, for the entire awards season. Interestingly our research found surprisingly its men who are more wasteful with clothes than women. One in six (15%) of men’s fashion items are never worn or only worn once, compared to just over one in 10 (11%) for women.

It’s not just big fashion names or celebrities who can make a difference. Making small changes can actually go a long way to help the environment.

Personally I shall be taking part in the UN #ActNow Fashion Challenge this year. Launched in August 2019 the campaign aims to educate and encourage individual behavioural change by adjusting our consumption patterns. So why not join me and simply share your zero-waste fashion action on social media using #ActNow and log it on un.org/actnow.

Additionally, here are some other ideas to get you started:

  • You can prevent old or unwanted clothes from going into landfill. Shops, such as H&M, run a garment recycling services to help shoppers do this. H&M will give you £5 towards your next purchase in exchange of a bag of your old clothes*.
  • Instead of buying a new outfit for a special occasion, rent one. There’s been a flurry of companies, such as Rotation, Cocoon and Endless Wardrobe, launching websites where you can rent clothes for occasions.
  • Make your own clothes out of unwanted clothes. We’re all guilty of throwing something away because it’s gone out of fashion but you can use the material to make new outfits. Spending a little bit of money on a sewing course could actually end up saving you money in the long run. And you will never dread turning up at an event and seeing someone in the same outfit as you.
  • Borrow clothes from friends or family (an oldie but a goodie). We’re often envious of some of the clothes in our nearest and dearest’s wardrobes so why not ask to borrow something you’ve seen them wear? It’s a massive compliment to them that you love their taste, but it also limits the negative impact you have on the environment and saves you money.
  • Consider your purchase. Ask yourself will you wear it a minimum of 30 times? If not walk away as that unnecessary purchase will leave you with a lighter wallet and a heavier carbon footprint!

You don’t just need to change your shopping habits to make a difference. For instance, where you save money or how you invest can actually play an important role in having a positive impact on the environment. For example:


This luxury retail group owns brands such as Gucci, YSL and Alexander McQueen and sustainability is at the core of their mission. CEO Francois-Henri Pinault believes protecting the planet and protecting their shareholders goes hand in hand. The company has a long term commitment to embed social and environmental sustainability at the heart of its business and has defined a series of ambitious targets to attain by 2025. These comprise of environmental stewardship, social welfare inside and outside the group and a focus on innovation to drive lasting change in the industry.

BMO Responsible Global Equity

The objective of this fund is to achieve long term capital growth by investing in companies whose products and operations are considered to be making a positive contribution to society. The fund avoids investment in companies with damaging or unsustainable business practices. BMO are one of the leading players within the field of Responsible Investing and actively engage with companies to encourage good governance.

VT Gravis Clean Energy Income

This funds aims to deliver a regular income of 4.5% per annum as well as preserving investor’s capital with the potential for growth. The fund invests in renewable energy such as wind, solar and hydro via companies owning renewable energy assets or operations directly linked to the funding, construction, generation and supply of renewable energy. It also invests in greener energy - companies that derive a significant part of their revenue from increasing the efficiency of or reducing pollution from generating and supplying energy or using energy.

With awards season underway and London Fashion Week just around the corner, it will be interesting to note whether 2019’s sustainable trend continues with celebrities going green for red carpet events, and if this starts to make its way into our everyday lives more too.

* We polled 2,449 people aged 16+ online between 13th and 17th December 2019.
* Wrap.org.uk
* H&M garment recycling.

All information given including prices, yields and our opinion is correct at the time of publication. Our opinions on investments can change at any time and for our latest view please go to www.share.com. To understand how our Investment research team arrive at their views please read our Investment Research Policy.

Lucinda Gregory portrait photo
Lucinda Gregory

Investment Research & Guidance Manager

Lucinda has significant experience working in the fund management industry having previously worked at J.P. Morgan. She currently manages our team of analysts who are leading the company’s sell-side proposition and are responsible for our range of preferred lists.

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