WEAR Sustain (Wearable technologists Engage with Artists for Responsible innovation): Sustainability Strategy Toolkit

This paper presents the results of the EU-funded innovation action project Wear Sustain (Wearable technologists Engage with Artists for Responsible innovation) which involved a total of 46 teams in 2 rounds of seed funding with the goal of setting the stage for the sustainable and ethical transformation of the field of textile wearable technology. Looking at three of the funded teams, we especially focus on both the process of how they were motivated to challenge their own practice, but also how the project supported them in transforming it into a more critical, sustainable practice, taking into account expert consultations, network events, and stakeholder workshops. Here, we introduce the Sustainability Strategy Toolkit (SST) and Wear Sustain platform, which was built to cater to the aforementioned challenges and provide textile wearable technologists with sustainability and ethics resources, a self-assessment tool, a viable network of peers as well as thematic hubs which provided hands-on support for the teams. We argue that this platform in conjunction with the SST may provide a starting point for novices as well as experts in the field of sustainable and ethical wearable technology, and will help push the field towards a common language regarding a more responsible practice. It supports in informing and subsequently empowering artists, designers, and technologists to implement a more sustainable and ethical approach in their practice. Furthermore, we critically assess the barriers we encountered with the inclusion of diverse stakeholders, providing arguments for stronger involvement of industry and their collaboration with individual artists and small teams. Finally, we elaborate on the discrepancy of a global innovation paradigm and the everyday reality of wearable technologists (drawing from the experience of the teams involved in the project), and how this impacts further development of the Wear Sustain platform as an arena for debate regarding the transformation of textile wearable technology practice towards more responsible, sustainable and ethical innovation.