Singapore’s online retailers go green by merging fashion and sustainability


There is growing concern about packaging waste as internet shopping takes off, but some online retailers say they won’t let sustainability take a back seat.

Singapore-based online fashion retailer Zalora says it is continuing its green commitment and trying to reduce its environmental footprint.

“We decided that the best way to do it was to make the commitments public, because that creates a degree of accountability that you cannot shirk. We have now made sure that all of our packaging is at least 80% recycled. Gunjan Soni, CEO of Zalora Group, told CNBC.

The question of sustainability in a world where packages fly down to the second is a big question that brand owners must grapple with …

James Racine

Senior Partner and President, Bain Futures

“But to come to the question of the product itself that we sell, we have launched an initiative around circular fashion. Very soon in the future, people will be able to resell the product that they bought from Zalora itself.”

Embedding sustainability into their business model is essential for online retailers, especially as the industry has come under heavy criticism for its heavy use of plastics in packaging.

An employee inspects orders at a warehouse of the Zalora fashion e-commerce company of Global Fashion Group (GFG) in the Cibitung district of Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday March 10, 2016.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace have warned that waste from China’s e-commerce sectors could more than quadruple by 2025, Reuters reported.

“The issue of sustainability in a world where packages fly down to the second is an important issue that brand owners face, and platform owners face it as well,” said James Root, Senior Partner and president of Bain Futures. , a global think tank of consultancy firm Bain & Company.

“But I can, from my own experience with these companies, say this is high on their agenda. How do you think about minimizing one-time use and maximizing reuse and sustainability across their models? commercial, ”he added.

Charting a sustainable path

Building a sustainable online business has been a priority for Republiqe, a virtual clothing retailer that sells “100% digital” clothing, according to its website.

Founder James Gaubert said the company wanted to position itself as “the world’s first fully digital virtual fashion brand”.

“What we do as a brand is basically treat our consumers like real avatars,” said Gaubert, who is also the Creative Director. “A consumer comes to our site, he chooses a piece of clothing or clothes, and then at the time of purchase, he uploads a photo of themselves.”

From there, the digital sewing team takes over and “adapts this photo with her clothing so that she can then distribute it and present it on social media.”

“Our clothes are as durable as it gets. They don’t exist in a physical world,” he added. “I am asked every day are we going to create a physical line of clothing? But on a personal level, it goes against our ethics. “

Leadership is vital

Countries need to take the lead on issues such as climate change, said Vinod Thomas, visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

“Until very recently, or even now, this (was not even) on the agenda of ASEAN leaders’ meetings,” Thomas said, referring to the Association of Asian Nations. from the South East. “How could it be like you can grow taller and possibly handle this on the road when it’s too late?” “

He said providing the right leadership is vital and stressed that Singapore is well positioned.

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Singapore launched its own green plan initiative in February, and part of that plan is to encourage more businesses to take a sustainable path.

The government’s initiative maps out Singapore’s green goals over the next 10 years. They include the 2030 target of reducing waste sent to landfills by 30%, and aim to turn all newly registered cars into cleaner energy models from 2030.

“People admire Singapore in terms of the business model,” said Thomas, former senior vice president of the World Bank. “Singapore has very high stakes. Southeast Asia certainly has very high stakes in solving the problem, but is also one of the biggest contributors to the problem.”

“Leadership must be assured so that others will follow as well,” he added.

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