Driving Environmental Sustainability with Circular Fashion

Capital One Ventures is investing in environmental sustainability through Trove, a company giving merchandise a longer life

To meet consumer appetite for the latest fashion, brands have traditionally increased production to get new styles out as fast as possible. In fact, clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2015, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The EPA reported that more than 11 million tons of textiles wound up in landfills in the U.S. in 2018. 

The agency says that landfills are the third-largest human producer of the greenhouse gas methane, and removing waste from landfills decreases decay and release of the gas. This is particularly powerful as the U.N. Environmental Programme suggests that immediate reduction of methane release is the best and swiftest opportunity to combat climate change.

The technology platform Trove strives to scale back that waste in the business of fashion by enabling brands to profitably engage in the resale of their own products — known as circular fashion.

Premium brands — often with loyal customer bases — go to great lengths to build durable, long-lasting products that could have many lives to live after an initial wear by their original owner.

Trove powers this recommerce experience for some of the world’s most forward-leaning active and luxury brands such as Patagonia, Levi’s, REI and lululemon. The company’s technology streamlines the full end-to-end logistics behind this sustainability movement, including recapturing used goods, issuing credits to participating customers, classifying items and their condition and getting the item ready for resale.

“We built Trove to enable brands to grow in more sustainable ways that are less dependent on new production,”  says Andy Ruben, Founder and Executive Chair of Trove. “By giving consumers the ability to easily return and buy used merchandise with the brand they already trust and love, Trove helps deepen the relationships between brands and their best customers, while also driving new customers who may now be able to afford an aspirational brand. It’s a win-win for all involved.”

This model also helps solve for the potentially onerous process of reselling through peer-to-peer marketplaces. While an important part of the ecosystem, it takes individuals time to sell and ship items to other consumers in a marketplace, and there are uncertainties on product quality for buyers.

Trove’s approach to supporting circular fashion offers consumers the ability to simply ship or drop off branded items at the store that have outlasted their shelf life and in some cases, earn store credits for doing so. Shoppers also have access to limited edition products and discounted items.

By giving products a longer life, Trove and its partners ensure high-quality merchandise doesn’t end up in a landfill, while sparing the precious water and materials that would go into replacement products. 

According to Trove, the company diverted over 200,000 pounds of clothes from landfills in 2021. Analogous to taking hundreds of cars off the road, it helped prevent two million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent from entering the atmosphere by consumers buying used instead of new.

Investing in Environmental Sustainability Through Corporate Venture Capital

Capital One Ventures — the strategic investment arm of Capital One — funds startups including Trove that are driving the future of data, technology and financial services.

Founded in 2014, Capital One Ventures has invested in more than 70 companies since its inception and is broadening its reach to mission-driven companies that benefit the communities where we live and work. Through venture capital investments in technology startups, Capital One Ventures aims to harness the power of emerging technology and accelerate Capital One’s progress as an innovative leader.

“Through our Impact Practice, Capital One Ventures is investing in entrepreneurs that are tackling critical societal and environmental challenges,” said Adam Boutin, partner, Capital One Ventures. “We are investing in companies like Trove that are not only delivering measurable impact through their core business, but also creating green jobs and making sustainability economically viable at scale. Trove is enabling brands to deliver on their environmental commitments, precisely as consumers are becoming increasingly climate conscious and putting their money where their mouth is.”

A New Growth Model for the Fashion Industry

Implementing processes such as Trove’s recommerce management platform poses a unique opportunity for the fashion industry to grow without growing emissions.

Ruben believes that the solution to the industry’s sustainability issue lies in addressing overproduction and limiting water consumption and waste during textile production.

Brands that embrace circular fashion introduce business growth without relying solely on an increase in production, combating the retail industry’s traditional model of ramping up production to maximize profits.

This model is catching on rapidly as recommerce will account for 14 percent of the apparel, footwear and accessories market by 2024, or roughly $60 billion, up from about 7 percent in 2020, according to research from Cowen.

As companies continue to embrace resale, it will pump the brakes on overproduction, reduce carbon emissions and water pollution and introduce new eco-friendly growth strategies, such as capturing margin on aftermarket sales.

“A decade from now, it will be unimaginable for consumption to exist without a circular economic infrastructure,” Ruben said. “Consumers, brands, logistics companies and financial institutions can all play a role now that mechanisms exist to build a more sustainable future.”

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