Bringing Science and Numbers to Sustainability

Sustainability infuses the Global Fashion Management MPS program, which prepares emerging fashion executives for leadership roles in the industry. In lectures about retail and supply chain management, technology, and sustainability, held during three eight-day intensive seminars in New York, Paris, and Hong Kong, students learn the importance of environmentally responsible practices in the fashion business. At least half of student thesis projects incorporate the concept in a fundamental way. But it’s rare in any setting—in higher education or the industry—to see sustainability approached from a scientific and mathematical perspective. On September 23, that’s what happened for an audience of students, alumni, and faculty in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre.

Linda Greer
Linda Greer.

Linda Greer, a Washington, D.C.–based senior global fellow with Beijing’s Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs and former senior scientist with the National Resources Defense Council, presented her Clean by Design methodology for reducing the carbon footprint of factories—a system that Stella McCartney has called “simple yet highly effective.”

The Clean by Design program focuses on factories that weave, dye, and sew because most of the carbon emitted by a garment’s creation and sale happens during the process of turning yarn into a finished product. The program recommends equipment upgrades and other concrete improvements that are proven to reduce energy use and pay for themselves within a few years.

“Clean by Design is just about the most brilliant breakdown I’ve ever seen,” said Pamela Ellsworth, associate chair of the Global Fashion Management program.

In her talk, Greer also emphasized the importance of identifying factories that waste energy. The Chinese government calls out factories within its borders that fall out of compliance; Southeast Asian countries have not been as successful at regulating their factories.

She advocated for a hardheaded approach to this work. “It’s not a sustainability ‘journey,’” she said. “You’re on a mission. The journey mentality has got to go.”

Greer’s lecture was part of the Graduate Studies Invites series and was sponsored by Avery Dennison Corporation.

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