We don’t usually think about what goes into making our clothes, or what happens to them after we donate them or throw them away. But the environmental impact of our fashion choices is enormous. One garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second. 92 million tonnes of solid waste dumped into landfills each year can be attributed to the fashion industry. The textile industry is the world’s second largest consumer of water, and produces approximately ten per cent of all global emissions.

Camille Reed, fashion industry veteran, loves fashion and also loves the environment. Five years ago, she was alarmed at the volume of waste produced and the rate of consumption generated through clothing. As she looked around the industry, she saw that she wasn’t alone. Within the industry, there was a growing concern over how to the outsized impact textiles has on climate change and the natural environment. Designers, retailers and brands know they have to move towards a more sustainable solution, and fast – both for the environment and to meet the demand of their customers.

But how?

After hosting the highly successful Australian Circular Fashion Conference, in March 2018, on the advice of a LinkedIn colleague (and former participant in Climate-KIC programmes), Camille entered the 2018 ClimateLaunchpad program in the final days of the application period. She wanted to test her idea that there was an appetite in the fashion industry for a network that could facilitate education around circular economy in textiles, and act as a central body for facilitating these processes across the industry – Australasian Circular Textile Association (ACTA) – the voice of the industry.

“I was looking to discover if our solution was viable, how could we  give our idea better structure and a stronger business case and long term … and most certainly through ClimateLaunchpad identify some of the strengths and weaknesses in the early planning we’d  already done.”

Camille believes aside from ClimateLaunchpad’s focus on climate change solutions, the approach of really honing on the business case is what makes ClimateLaunchpad unique. It wasn’t until going through the ClimateLaunchpad process that she discovered in order to make a strong business case, she would have to reorient the model she had always assumed ACTA would take.  “Getting into the mindset of delivering a service or product, and an offering to your intended end market — are you answering to a problem or a genuine need for your potential customer?”

Her willingness to set aside her assumptions and step into the mindset of her customer paid off; after emerging victorious from the Sydney regional pitch finals, she rounded out the final three start-ups representing Australia at the Global Pitch Finals in Edinburgh in November last year.

Besides the opportunity to pitch her business in front of investors, start-ups, industry leaders and colleagues from over 30 countries, Camille says that ClimateLaunchpad was a valuable tool for confirming she was onto something that could create real climate impact. “It was fantastic to be able to realise the potential we already had in our core ideas, and also how fantastic to challenge your own assumptions and untapped ideas.”

Camille Reed at the 2018 ClimateLaunchpad Global Grand Finals in Edinburgh
Camille Reed at the 2018 ClimateLaunchpad Global Grand Finals in Edinburgh

These days, Camille is one of the go-to people when it comes to sustainability in the  fashion industry in Australia. And as sustainability creeps up the agenda of fashion enthusiasts and fashion brands  alike, her expertise and insights are more and more sought after and relevant in the industry. In practice ACTA, officially launched in March 2019, is now in the process of onboarding members. ACTA will proactively develop and address the industry’s environmental responsibilities and act as a facilitator connecting brands and retailers to their national textile take-back scheme.

Camille is the first to admit that ACTA subverts the traditional model of what might be expected within a ‘business ideas competition’: “We didn’t have a physical product like most others at the global finals…ACTA is about identifying the tools and resources for educational purposes to bring together people for exponential collaboration and to make dramatic change as quickly as possible.”

ACTA’s goals by 2024 are to be responsible for diverting 90 per cent of all polyester from landfill, and saving nearly 680 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of the electricity used in 102,000 homes in one year. Furthermore, with a projected membership base of more than a quarter of the Australian fashion industry by year five, ACTA stands to grow significantly in value.

To find out more about the Australasian Circular Textile Association, visit www.acta.global

Climate-KIC Australia is now accepting applications for ClimateLaunchpad 2019.  Applications close on June 10, 2019. Apply now.