We live in an age of information, in which innovation and opportunity take centre stage. So, for many, the idea of living in ignorance is no longer an option. This extends into practically every area of our lives, from casting a sceptical eye over the news we read, to considering our own impact on the environment we live in. The latter is one of, if not the, critical issue of our day and means that consumers are thinking more and more about the food they eat, the products they use and the clothes they wear. And if consumers are thinking about it, then businesses should be too…
Veganism is one of the ways in which people choose to make a stand for their beliefs in a world where we often don’t think about where our food comes from. Even a few years ago, to be a vegan was to be at the fringes, with vegan options in restaurants and supermarkets few and far between. But the last few years have brought about a huge change and veganism is not only an ethical lifestyle choice but also a potential game-changer for business. The Vegan Society in the UK have stated that if ‘…the world went vegan, it could save 8 million human lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion.’
These are staggering numbers and they don’t stop there, with The Vegan Society reporting a massive 65% increase in the number of new vegan product registrations under the Vegan Trademark, with over 75% of these coming from countries outside of the UK, such as Germany, Italy and Spain. Germany is currently the world-leader in terms of vegan product development, with Australia the most popular country for veganism in 2018.
While veganism is most often associated with a specific diet and vegan food is becoming more and more popular, with supermarkets, restaurants and cafes all offering vegan options, it is not the only way for vegans to actively embrace their lifestyles. Animal products are used in a huge range of day-to-day items that most of us are unaware of and many consumers are now seeking out alternatives. Businesses are waking up to this need in a variety of ways. Tesla recently announced that its Model 3 interior would be 100% leather-free, a move that some considered to be off-brand for a luxury car supplier and yet, appealed to Tesla’s demographic perfectly. And they aren’t the only ones, with Ferrari offering faux-leather alternatives and have done so for the last few years.
Indeed, the vegan leather market is predicted to skyrocket in the next few years, with a recent report from business consultancy, Grand View Research, predicting that the industry will be worth $85 billion by 2025. Leather has long-been a contentious product, and not just for vegans and vegetarians. The production methods used to tan leather release harmful pollutants into the air and have a damaging effect on the environment. All of this has meant that the leather industry has been hit hard, as consumers seek out cruelty-free, more sustainable options.
And one of the ways that consumers are looking for alternatives is through the clothes they wear. Vegan leather is probably the best known of these but it extends far beyond this. The Vegan Society have cited a recent survey in the UK, that showed an increase of 39% in searches for ‘vegan fashion’ and ‘vegan clothes’ between 2017-18. With alternatives to fur, silk and wool being produced, there is more choice than ever for those looking for vegan clothing options. Farmers, cloth suppliers and clothing brands are looking for different ways to appeal to this growing market. A bespoke tailors in the UK, King & Allen, have seen a 200% increase in enquiries for vegan suits (made from bamboo, cotton, linen and other wool alternatives), year-on-year since 2015. ‘People are looking for ways to stay true to their beliefs and express their identities through their clothing,’ says CEO, Jake Allen, ‘businesses should be looking for ways to innovate and create new, exciting ways for their customers to do so.’
Stella McCartney is another brand that is synonymous with animal welfare. The designer has been a long-standing proponent of ethical standards in fashion and has said that, at times she has been ‘ridiculed’ for her strongly-held beliefs and cruelty-free practices. But she has been at the vanguard of this new wave in fashion and the brand are always seeking out new ways to change the fashion landscape for the better. She is a strong believer in praising other brands that are making changes to the way they make and produce clothing. For her, and for many, it’s about constant, forward momentum in a changing world.
And perhaps we should all take a leaf (no pun intended) out of Stella McCartney’s book. We should seek to move with the times, to, in this age of information, find new ways to innovate and improve, to appeal to new generations and, hopefully, play our part in creating a better future.