Charlotte Turner on creating a sustainable fashion industry and how CNC students are part of the solution

Charlotte Turner on creating a sustainable fashion industry and how CNC students are part of the solution

Charlotte Turner

Condé Nast College was delighted to welcome for the second time, Charlotte Turner, Sustainability Consultant and Advisor at Eco-Age as the penultimate industry speaker of the summer term. Charlotte spoke openly and candidly about the challenges facing the fashion industry, through the lens of sustainability. But most importantly the way in which the students can actively help and engage with the positive changes occurring across the industry.  


With over a decade of experience within the sustainability sector, Charlotte has supported brands and manufacturers set-up and run their own responsible businesses with long-term sustainability strategies. Her work focuses on the importance of authentic communication of sustainable strategy and introducing alternative materials and processes to the supply chain.


A shift has occurred in the conversation around sustainability, “from sustaining to regenerating” and making improvement. Charlotte shared how since 2002 the average consumer buys 60% more clothing products, yet 40% of products remain unworn. With a vast proportion ending their product lifecycle in landfill or burnt off as deadstock. Even more shockingly, only 1% of clothing that ends up in the recycling bins in stores ends up being recycled, due to a technological deficit. The key learning from these stats is a need for human beings to alter our behaviours, in a way which minimises harm to the environment.



Consumer Responsibility


Key to the solid change is firm policy implemented by brands, which is brought about in part by pressure applied by the consumer. Charlotte revealed that 52% of millennials require further research to substantiate brand claims, which is indicative of an increasingly savvy consumer that will act as a check and balance over the fashion industry. This is a key strategy to combat greenwashing. For example, “if clothes say they have reached compliance, that is just a legislative bare minimum to trade in the EU. Not a measure of going above and beyond”, explains Charlotte.


“Sustainability is no longer defined as a tick box experience, where brands talk about corporate responsibility – we have reached a tipping point.”


Brand Responsibility


SDG (sustainable development goals) were created by the need for great change to be made across the fashion industry. No. 12 ‘Responsible consumption and production’ is all about scaling back, however the fashion industry is focused on a growth model to make more money. Even though there are goals to make a circular economy, “How can we create products which people value for longer and keep. Rather than fuelling the throw away culture of single use garments. A lot of the SDGs have targets for 2030 and we are falling behind”.



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‘Indigenous intelligence is the answer to the climate crisis’. In a new IPCC report scientists have pulled together evidence which highlights we are in a climate crisis. From this report Vogue Business created a set of takeaways, which highlight the necessity for the fashion industry to do more. There are few essential actions required to ‘reduce carbon emissions throughout supply chains’, this has been exacerbated through practices in the fashion industry. There needs to be a greater focus on efficiency and using renewable sources of energy. ‘Increase climate change resilience through reducing reliance on dwindling natural resources’.


Earth Overshoot day – the day we will have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the whole year – this year was on July 29th. To put this into context in 1971 this day was December 20th. This great contrast will unequivocally have an impact on future generations. Charlotte explains how, “we are at a point of urgency and this is what we need to think about doing [finding regenerative, circular solutions] to slow down the climate crisis”.



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How far do you think the fashion industry can be truly sustainable?


“Inherently it [the fashion industry] is unsustainable; it is based on consumption and production; it needs to be re-thought by the next generation. It cannot carry on like this, it needs a shake-up. We are producing too much and marketing too much. Make a product and learn what goes into making a product”. 


Charlotte spoke about the rental market, when asked by a student. “Rental is brilliant as it solves the issue of stopping buying something then keeping it in the wardrobe, it also helps with the accessibility of people who would otherwise not be able to access these designer clothes. But there is the transport issue”. There needs to be further attention on the use of renewable packaging and what will happen at the end of the garment’s life.



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How to start your career in fashion sustainability?


“It is about a mindset as well as knowledge and skill set” you will need a curiosity, adaptability, critical thinking mindset and an emotional / mental resilience. Charlotte spoke to students about how they “will come up against a lot of fatigue and feeling overwhelmed [by the challenge of making an increasingly sustainable industry], collaboration is everything, have perspective, you are but one person, you can be a part of the bigger picture, but you can do this as a collective”. It is important to always conduct yourself with integrity, honesty and an expectation to fail. “Failure is the seat of learning”, you are going to get things wrong, but you are going to learn and grow.


Key takeaways


  • Individual action is the solution to combat the climate crisis.· 
  • Think before you buy and be vocal with brands. Call brands out when they do something wrong.
  • The importance of evolving the consumer mindset. We need to think about whether we need something rather than want something. Do a clothes swap, sell it, don’t just think about giving it to a charity shop, be mindful.

Read about how sustainable consumption is helping our mental wellbeing as well as the Earth 

Discover more about Fashion and Sustainability through a CNC expert opinion