GLOBAL CHANGE AWARDS
Vuyo’s ‘beeg, beeg dreamer’ catapulted into forum to help reshape fashion industry
Miles Kubheka – the go-getter behind South Africa’s most famous boerie stand-turned-restaurant – will be tapping into his own rags-to-riches story of entrepreneurship.
An entrepreneurial South African has joined the panel of the Global Change Awards where he will help to identify and nurture innovative solutions to transform the fashion industry.
Miles Kubheka, the resourceful creator of Vuyo’s Restaurant, which cheekily piggybacked off the success of the Hansa Pilsner “Beeg, beeg dreamer” advert, will also be advising on the Global Change Awards’ Impact Accelerator Programme.
Launched by the H&M Foundation in 2015, the initiative invites bright minds from around the world to submit ideas that can reshape the fashion industry in terms of sustainability and social impact.
Kubheka, who has a “rags-to-riches” story, holds a Master’s degree in Business and a postgraduate Business Diploma from GIBS Business School. He’s also a serial entrepreneur, television chef and author.
This year, 10 global innovations were chosen as winners and awarded €200,000 each (just over R4-million) to support their development and contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry.
Among the winners is Kenya-based company Rethread Africa, which regenerates agricultural waste from sugar and maize into bio-based synthetics. The biodegradable textile fabric is designed to break down and re-enrich the soil at the end of its life. They say their “big, hairy ambitious goal” is to replace 15% of polyester over the next decade.
By turning agro-waste into bio-based synthetics, they have developed a material that uses far fewer resources while retaining the same qualities as petroleum-based synthetics. The material is sourced from smallholder farmers.
Another winner, Refiberd, is owned by a team of American female engineers who aim to solve the global textile waste crisis.
Through advanced tech, they ensure the efficient and accurate sorting of textiles for recycling applications to unlock a 100% circular economy.
Data suggests that a truckload of textile waste is discarded each second, worldwide. That equates to 84.4 billion kilograms of textile waste being dumped globally each year – more than 80% of which is incinerated and added to landfills.
Because recyclers are not able to process unsorted textile waste, less than 1% of this waste is recycled into new clothing.
Refiberd’s sorting technology can help divert up to 70% of the textile waste stream to high-value recyclers and unlock new opportunities across the industry.
A previous winner, Infinited Fiber, is a Finnish company that developed technology to transform textile waste into new fibres for the industry.
The fast-growing fashion and textile tech company’s technology is used to turn waste into a new premium textile fibre, not only to help the H&M Group achieve its own sustainability goals but also has the potential to have an impact on the broader textile industry.
It supplies leading brands such as Adidas, H&M and Zara.
After an initial investment in 2019, in July 2021, Infinited Fiber raised a further €30-million to fuel the circular fashion industry. The H&M Group has signed a multiyear sales deal to secure access to its regenerated textile fibre, Infinna.
Key account director of Infinited Fiber, Kirsi Roine, explained on the sidelines of last week’s World Circular Economy Forum in Helsinki that the textile industry is one of the top five most polluting in the world, and is also related to slave labour.
By converting textile waste into raw material, they are helping to make the fashion industry more sustainable because there is no need to extract new natural resources (and use as many chemicals) to make textile fibres if they can be obtained from used clothing.
To date, the Global Change Award has given more than 35 innovators a combined total of €7-million. The participants have become integral members of the GCA Alumni network.
The award is aimed at transforming fashion and turning the textile industry “planet positive”.
The GCA is one of the biggest innovation challenges of its kind.
In a statement, Karl-Johan Persson, H&M Foundation board member, said: “We have an urgent opportunity to support innovations that could transform the entire fashion industry. That’s why we’re doubling the grant and the number of winners, giving these innovators a total of €2-million and access to our accelerator programme.
“We’re also providing the industry with an opportunity to connect with these brilliant minds.”
Last year, the Swedish fast-fashion giant was pressured into removing a scorecard system that had been used to inform H&M customers about the environmental soundness of each product, after it was accused of greenwashing in a report by Quartz, which claimed that more than half of the scorecards portrayed products as being better for the environment than they actually were.
The report also allegedly found that some scorecards provided information about the sustainability of a product that was far from the truth.
The scorecards were created based on the Higg Materials Sustainability Index by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which has now stopped the use of the consumer-facing transparency scorecards in response to a complaint by the Norwegian Consumer Authority and is reassessing their methodology, reported Forbes.
A watchdog group found that the scorecards used only averages of the environmental impact of types of textile, rather than giving the full environmental impact of the manufacture and sale of a particular finished piece of clothing, Just Style reported.
In July a lawsuit was filed against H&M in New York, accusing it of “greenwashing” or engaging in false advertising about the sustainability of its clothing. The plaintiff, Chelsea Commodore, is a marketing student who alleged she had overpaid for a fashion item that had been marketed as “conscious” but really wasn’t.
She claims several pieces of H&M’s “Conscious Collection” products were advertised as using less water to manufacture, when they in fact use more.
H&M claimed the discrepancy was the result of technical issues, noted The Cut. DM