Interview: Farfetch global director of business Thomas Berry

Online fashion platform Farfetch is striving to create a more sustainable fashion sector, with a three pronged approach that uses technology and consumer engagement in a bid to reach green goals.

Farfetch's sustainability strategy has three core pillars, according to Thomas Berry, global director of sustainable business at the fashion brand. “One is to focus on operational… opportunities that we have, as both a business and as a platform serving others, to reduce the environmental impact [of what we do],” Berry tells Essential Retail. “There's lot of tech and innovation involved in that, including tools that improve returns, or logistics, to make that whole thing more efficient.”

A second pillar is to help customers to make more environmentally-friendly choices. “We work to basically highlight, promote, and engage consumers around the positive choices they can make... better environmentally and socially,” says Berry. Consumer-facing technology, and a growing ability to use technology to make supply chains more transparent to customers, are included in these efforts.

Berry predicts a growing appetite among consumers for greater insight into where and how products are made and transported. Just as foodie consumers may want to know about animal welfare, and to trace the journey of their meat from farm to plate, so could fashion consumers benefit from learning more about the origin of fabrics, or the conditions in clothing factories, he says.

“The third pillar is what we call the circular pillar, which is about reducing waste in the industry,” adds Berry. Efforts here include technology to authenticate products – and how they can be recycled – more accurately, but also entirely new business models that can be serviced by Farfetch.

Berry points to its recently launched handbag resale service, which allows designer bags to be easily sold on to a new owner when the first tires of the purchase or wants a change. Helping customers to re-use and repurpose products is set to be a growing trend, and one that several brands are investigating, says Berry.

Farfetch is also taking direct action, in the shape of its Dream Assembly programme. An in-house accelerator scheme, the programme backs between seven and 10 fashion-based tech start-ups every year. Despite it not generally being a qualifying factor, the scheme has attracted start-ups with a strong focus on sustainability, notes Berry.

Farfetch believes that empowered consumers will eventually be the ultimate defence for the environment, and that being able to use independent third parties to check environmental claims made by brands will be a vital tool to allow that. “We've taken that approach because it should, long term, help consumers, because it helps drive clarity. It means it's credible, it means it's authentic. You're not in danger of greenwashing,” says Berry.