Tech giant Google and sustainability champion Stella McCartney are teaming up to help reduce the environmental footprint of the fashion industry.

McCartney has long spearheaded the use of recyclable fabrics, organic cotton and synthetic leathers in her designs, so it seems only natural that Google should look to the 47-year-old to help create a scheme which aims to improve sustainability in the fashion supply chain.   

At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit on Tuesday, Google announced that it is building a Google Cloud data analytics and machine learning service that will “give brands a more comprehensive view into their supply chain,” particularly at the level of raw production.

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The machine learning technology will be used to help brands estimate the environmental impact of particular items of clothing at the sourcing and design stages, and use this data to help companies take action.

The pilot has been launched in response to the growing environmental impact of the the fashion industry. According to Google, the fashion industry accounts for 20 per cent of wastewater and 10 per cent of carbon emissions globally.

In addition, a recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – a registered charity that campaigns for economic change – found that clothes account for half a million tons of non-biodegradable microfibers reaching the oceans every year, the equivalent of more than 50 billion plastic bottles. 

The pilot scheme will begin by looking at cotton and viscose, which have been chosen due to the scale of their production, the availability of data and impact considerations. 

Speaking about the initiative, McCartney said: “At Stella McCartney, we have been continuously focusing on looking at responsible and sustainable ways to conduct ourselves in fashion, it is at the heart of what we do. 

“We are trying our best – we aren’t perfect, but we are opening a conversation that hasn’t really been had in the history of fashion.”

Google Cloud head of retail Nick Martin added: “This pilot will enable us to test the effectiveness of the tool on these different raw materials, building out the possibilities for expansion into a wider variety of key textiles in the market down the line.

“We plan to include data sources that allow companies to better measure the impact of their raw materials relevant to key environmental factors, such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water scarcity.”

Google has confirmed that its work with Stella McCartney is just the first stage of the process and that it is actively working with fashion brands, experts, NGOs and industry bodies in order to create an open industry-wide tool that any company can use.

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The scheme comes just months after the Foresight Future of the Sea report revealed that the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is set to treble in a decade unless action is taken to deal with the problem.

Experts warned that plastic is one of the biggest threats facing the world’s seas, while highlighting other keys issues including rising sea levels, warming oceans and metal and chemical pollution.

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