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Regenerative agriculture, the new frontier of sustainability

Regenerative agriculture allows brands in the fashion sector to reduce the amount of natural resources used in the production of natural textile fibres.

Last March, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a new report containing a detailed analysis of the environmental impact of various industrial sectors. The document revealed that the fashion sector ranks third for consumption of soil and water and fifth for the amount of greenhouse gasses generated. Added to this is the massive use of raw materials for the manufacturing, transport and retailing of clothing garments: fossil fuels, chemicals and soil fertilisers.

The growing focus on the environment and the worsening of the climate emergency on the part of organisations and the public requires brands to address the issue of eco-sustainability through a non-superficial approach. This means abandoning the thinking behind the 'eco-friendly capsule collection' and taking into account the entire life cycle of a product, starting with the production of raw materials.

The decision by some major fashion brands to assume greater control (and in some cases ownership) of the farms and fields from which they obtain their natural textile fibres is a step in this direction. Through a vertically integrated system and regenerative agricultural practices, companies can reduce the amount of natural resources used as a result of raw-material production. A 'from sheep to shop' approach for wool sheep farms and a 'farm to closet' approach for cotton cultivation make it possible to protect the environment, animals and people living in certain environments and to safeguard workers' rights, while at the same time ensuring high-quality raw materials.

Regenerative agriculture and sustainable livestock systems help to protect soil health and biodiversity, regenerating the ecosystem and mitigating climate change. These methods involve the use of various crops, the grazing of indigenous animals, agroforestry and the avoidance of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers to prevent the soil from drying out. Regenerative agriculture allows us to obtain more resistant and productive plantations without the use of chemicals.

The Ermenegildo Zegna group, for example, purchased a herd of 12,000 merino wool sheep in New England, Australia, which are raised with due regard for the quality of life of the animals and the rights of workers. The Kering Group—which owns brands like Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga—also recently launched the Regenerative Fund for Nature, with the aim of transforming 1 million hectares of crops and pastures with regenerative practices. The fund offers grants to agricultural cooperatives, project managers, NGOs and other stakeholders willing to experiment and develop innovative agricultural techniques to regenerate the land.

Regenerative agriculture represents a further step towards reducing the environmental impact of the fashion industry, provided that we start producing less and better. This means limiting the number of collections and garments placed on the market and offering more lasting, high-quality clothing and accessories made from recycled materials or produced in an environmentally sustainable way.

Written by: Roberto

Regenerative agriculture, the new frontier of sustainability

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