Fashion and utility retailers join forces to debate sustainable shopping

  • First meeting of fashion and utility retailers to debate how to encourage customers to shop in a sustainable way
  • Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton cited as a role model for re-wearing outfits
  • Event spearheaded by University of Sheffield psychologists and management experts and fashion experts at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion

Fashion and utility retailers met for the first time last week as part of a unique collaboration to debate how best to encourage customers to shop in a sustainable way.

The discussion at Westfield Shopping Centre, London, builds upon a growing recognition and requirement within both retail sectors of the need to encourage more conscientious consumption of their products in order to reduce the environmental impact of their activities.

While utility companies are governed by legislation that requires they encourage people to use less energy and water, the fashion industry currently has no set regulations.Duchess of Cambridge

However, fashion retailers are increasingly aware of the need to reduce their environmental impact and are keen to work with experienced retailers from other sectors to identify the best means of promoting more conscientious consumption of clothing while staying in business.

The unlikely coupling of retail sectors has been spearheaded by psychologists and management experts at the University of Sheffield and fashion experts at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion in a multidisciplinary, knowledge exchange project called TRANSFER, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Dr Natalie McCreesh, TRANSFER Research Associate at the University of Sheffield, said the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, was a “great role model” for dressing and shopping in a more sustainable way.

“She often re-wears the same items and shows how you can make the same dress look like a new outfit just by changing accessories. She even borrows clothes from her mum and sister, buys from outlet stores and consignment shops.”

She added: “All these things might not immediately seem environmentally friendly but they add up to make a huge difference. It’s about looking after what you already have and getting more use of what you do buy.”

The academic team are confident that TRANSFER can make a positive impact on sustainability in both the fashion and utility retail sectors and will extend their findings to consult members of the public later in the year.

Dr Christopher Jones, TRANSFER lead investigator at the University of Sheffield, added: “We have brought together a diverse group of retailers to the table at today’s event. However, this diversity masks a number of common challenges and opportunities for those involved.

“We hope the TRANSFER project will help to ensure that UK Plc develops in a more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable way.”

Partners at the event included ASOS, DED Associates, E.ON UK, Ecotricity, LUSH Cosmetics, Marks and Spencer, Meadowhall Sheffield, MK Things Happen PR, National Grid Plc, Neals Yard Remedies, Retail Centric, Reve en Vert, ReWardrobe, Susie Stone Ltd, Thames Water, UK Data Service, United Utilities, Westfield London and WRAP, as well as Sunday Times journalist Jessica Brinton and journalist and ethical consultant Marion Hume.

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 of the brightest students from 117 countries coming to learn alongside 1,209 of the world’s best academics, it is clear why the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading universities. Staff and students at Sheffield are committed to helping discover and understand the causes of things - and propose solutions that have the power to transform the world we live in.

A member of the Russell Group, the University of Sheffield has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011 for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007), recognising the outstanding contribution by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

One of the markers of a leading university is the quality of its alumni and Sheffield boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students. Its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, Siemens, Yorkshire Water and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. The White Rose University Consortium (White Rose) a strategic partnership between three of the UK's leading research universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Since its creation in 1997 White Rose has secured more than £100M into the Universities.

Economic and Social Research Council

The Economic and Social Research Council funds research into the big social and economic questions facing us today. We also develop and train the UK’s future social scientists.

Our research informs public policies and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. Most importantly, it makes a real difference to all our lives. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.


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Hannah Postles
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The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046