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January 23, 2019

Climate change picked as core priority for fashion CEOs

By Beth Wright

Li & Fung, PVH Corp, Nike, and Kering are amongst a group of industry heavyweights backing new guidance to help fashion CEOs decide where to focus their sustainability efforts in 2019, with climate change highlighted as a core priority. 

Supply chain traceability, combating climate change, the efficient use of water, energy and chemicals, and respectful and secure work environments are among the eight most crucial sustainability priorities set out in the latest ‘CEO Agenda’, which has been developed by Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) in response to industry requests for more guidance and a common focus.

The second edition of the Agenda, which was released during the World Economic Forum which is taking place in Davos, Switzerland, this week, has been updated to reflect global developments.

While the industry has increasingly been working on issues such as chemicals, circularity and equality, it must also further address its impact on climate change, GFA explains. Currently, total greenhouse gas emissions from textile production amount to 1.2bn tonnes annually, according to new research from UNFCCC. This is more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

“Climate change is an unprecedented threat to people and the planet. We only have 11 years to rectify the catastrophic impact we’ve had on our planet or we’ll miss the objective of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius. We know that change is not easy, but overall progress is too slow, and we simply can’t afford to lose another year,” says Eva Kruse, CEO of Global Fashion Agenda, which aims to mobilise the global fashion system to change the way fashion is produced, marketed and consumed.

The organisations backing the new initiative – including Asos, Bestseller, H&M group, Kering, Li & Fung, Nike, PVH Corp, Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Target – are hoping the Agenda will encourage the fashion industry to take leadership in driving sustainable solutions by working proactively to address critical environmental, social and ethical challenges.

The CEO Agenda 2019 spells out the eight most crucial sustainability priorities, offering clear guidance on where businesses should focus their efforts. 

This includes four priorities for immediate implementation:

  • Supply chain traceability
  • Combating climate change
  • Efficient use of water, energy and chemicals
  • Respectful and secure work environments

There are also four transformational priorities for fundamental change in the long run:

  • Sustainable material mix
  • Circular fashion system
  • Promotion of better wage systems
  • Fourth industrial revolution

“The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest and most powerful industries. Therefore, we need to take leadership to secure the future of our industry – and our planet,” adds Kruse.

With sustainability a strategic issue that requires top-level engagement, fashion brand CEOs are the primary target audience of the CEO Agenda.

Emanuel Chirico, CEO of PVH and a collaborator to the Agenda, explains: “We believe in holding ourselves accountable to the highest standards, setting ambitious corporate responsibility goals that drive fashion forward – for good. CEO Agenda 2019 encourages leaders across the industry to do the same. The issues our industry faces are complex and global, they require collaboration, and no single organisation can solve these challenges alone.”

Spencer Fung, CEO of Hong-Kong based sourcing giant Li & Fung concurs. “Today we can leverage the latest technology to create solutions for the industry’s deepest challenges – and in doing so, build a better, more sustainable fashion industry. We will need everyone’s collaboration and will to make this happen.”

Click here to read the CEO Agenda 2019.

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