The 2023 edition of GFA Monitor report published by Denmark-based non-profit Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) is aimed at guiding fashion leaders towards a net-positive fashion industry.

The GFA Monitor is an extensive resource presenting expert insights into the status of the industry, clear actions to take towards net-zero and proven best practice.

The 2023 publication presents new findings from the Fashion Industry Target Consultation (FITC), launched by GFA and the United Nations Environment Programme in November 2022.

GFA invited stakeholders from across the global value chain to share their thoughts on the performance indicators and milestones that the industry must strive to meet.
Overall, FITC data revealed that the majority of the 900 participants supported industry alignment on the 27 action areas proposed in the consultation and remarked that they are actively engaging with the industry to drive progress in the respective areas.

Highlights from the Fashion Industry Target Consultation

Respectful and Secure Work Environments
Of those that responded to questions related to this priority:

  • The highest percentage (88%) of brand respondents claimed to have set targets to adopt responsible purchasing practices – yet only 63% of brands claimed to be measuring progress against these set targets. 100% of brands and producers unanimously expressed support for reaching alignment on this action area and engaging with the industry to collectively drive progress.
  • Fewest brands (58%) claimed to have set targets on worker access to effective grievance mechanisms whilst producers reported their lowest score on value chain transparency (75%)

Better Wage Systems

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Of those that responded to questions related to this priority:

  • The highest percentage of brands and producers (86%) claim to have set targets to implement fair compensation and living wage across the textile value chain
  • Yet the lowest percentage of brands and producers are setting targets on freedom of association or collective bargaining (33% brands/ 67% producers/ manufacturers) and closing the gender pay gap (33% brands/ 86% producers/ manufacturers) – both key enablers towards reaching fair compensation and living wage

Resource Stewardship

Of those that responded to questions related to this priority:

  • Highest claims of target setting were related to decarbonisation/ GHG emission reduction (88% brands/ 89% producers/ manufacturers) and elimination of hazardous chemicals (86% brands/ 100% producers/ manufacturers)
  • Lowest number of targets reported to be set towards eliminating microfibre pollution (36% brands/ 63% producers/ manufacturers) also reflected in the percentage of those measuring and reporting progress (33% brands/ 63% producers/ manufacturers)

Smart Material Choices

Of those who responded to questions related to this priority:

  • A significantly high number of respondents claimed to have set targets to produce and source priority materials from preferred and low climate impact sources (96% brands/ 100% producers/ manufacturers)
  • Brands are setting most of their preferred material targets on cotton (92%) while producers on polyester (90%)

Circular Systems

Of those that responded to questions related to this priority:

  • Target setting in the Circular Systems field is very fragmented with many targets self-defined, lacking comparability with peers, and inconsistent ambition levels. However, FITC shows a surprisingly high percentage of brands and producers setting targets in this space even on complex topics like absolute virgin resource use reduction (74% of brands and 89% of producers) and overproduction (78% of brands and 77% of producers)
  • The lowest target-setting results were related to eradicating messages encouraging unnecessary consumption (46% brands/ 53% producers/ manufacturers) and measuring the actual impact on job quality and availability from circular business models to support a just transition to a circular economy (29% brands/ 73% producers/ manufacturers)

Federica Marchionni, CEO of Global Fashion Agenda, said: “The timeframe for averting the worst climate impacts is rapidly narrowing. Solutions must be deployed and put into action faster. Currently, significant gaps persist between ambition and concrete action in addressing social and environmental priorities.

“On the climate front, IPCC’s latest report gave a stark final warning to the world to limit global temperature increases in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement and transition to net-zero or near-zero emissions. Unless significant changes are made to the way we source and consume energy, especially in production regions, the industry will fall short of the decarbonisation targets necessary to align with
the 1.5°C pathway.”

She emphasised that to achieve a net-positive industry, it is imperative that fashion moves from ambition to taking holistic action that is inclusive and equitable, ensuring that the neutral environment is restored, and that no one is left behind.

Next steps for industry stakeholders

According to GFA, the industry should take the following actions to effectively ensure a just transition from linear to circular practices for all actors across the global garment value chain:

  • Sourcing and Standards – Sourcing all animal fibres and materials from certified sources with certifications covering animal welfare, land management and social requirements, wherever possible. Prioritising sourcing and producing all sheep wool from preferred sources, with an increasing amount derived from certified recycled or regenerative raw materials.
  • Circular Design Principles – Designing and manufacturing all products for the circular economy, to be used for longer, made to be remade and made from safe and recycled or renewable inputs, in line with Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s vision of a circular economy.
  • Eliminate Waste and Address Overproduction – Optimising designs to eliminate waste during the production and manufacturing stage where possible. Developing a strategy to reduce surplus stock that is unsold, sold at a discount, resold or destroyed, and carry out due diligence.
  • Performance Indicators, User Incentives and Revenue – Optimising performance indicators for sustainability performance and integrate them across all business activities. Driving increased revenue share from circular business models, generating revenue without making new clothes. Rethinking incentives to reward customers who engage in circular business models.
  • Build Supply Networks – Engaging actors across the value chain to enable circulation of products both locally and globally, leveraging digital technologies to track and optimise product streams and materials along with collaborating with regional and national policy changemakers.
  • Waste Stream Mapping – Digitally mapping post-industrial and post-use waste streams to support building of feedstock networks to meet textile recyclers’ demands in terms of price, quality and safety standards. Leveraging collected data to inform the public sector and help focus subsidies and drive necessary policy reform.
  • Protective Planning and Measurement – Developing a deep, holistic understanding of how circular business models and automation impacts workers along the value chain as well as integrating a roadmap within a broader company strategy. Measuring and disclosing disaggregated information about the influence of circular business models on job quality and job availability.
  • Training and Upskilling – Proactively planning for emerging skill gaps along with investing in training in areas such as technological, digital and soft skills with particular focus on vulnerable, marginalised and informal groups, equipping workers with the necessary transferable skills.

COP28 and fashion industry’s progress towards net positive

GFA believes this report comes at a time when COP28 will provide a “critical moment” to take stock globally, with the company and its partners presenting the fashion industry’s progress towards net positive and providing guidance on how to accelerate actions on its pathway.

Building on its alliance with the UN Climate Change, GFA will host a session on 5 December, dedicated to the fashion sector at COP28 to ensure fashion is included in the crucial conversations and decisions intended to accelerate climate action.

Marchionni added: “The second iteration of The GFA Monitor reaffirms the power of alliances to accelerate action. In a time of socioeconomic and geopolitical turmoil, executives need clear guidance more than ever to ensure sustainability measures can continue to move forward. By working collectively with multiple industry organisations, we were able to highlight the steps that are needed, collate a wealth of promising solutions and steer fashion stakeholders on their journey.”

In September, Global Fashion Agenda called for “systemic change” as it launched the new Fashion Sector Vision report with recommendations for the next seven years.