Speaking across three sessions at the COP27 Summit in Sharm El Sheikh, non-profit Global Fashion Agenda expressed the “immense impact” of fashion and advocated that it needs to have prominence within the overall climate agenda.

It emphasised that factors such as respectful and secure work environments, living wages and circular systems need to be brought into the climate change conversation to take a holistic approach towards a net positive industry for people and the planet.

GFA presented three events that brought together a range of industry experts to address critical industry topics including the route of travel for the fashion industry to become net positive; the cross-sectoral alliances to decarbonise the fashion value chain; and the actions needed to foster circular systems.

“It is essential that leaders attending COP27 move beyond words to set clear commitments that are rigorously followed through beyond the conference, leading to the implementation of concrete and urgent actions,” said Federica Marchionni, CEO of GFA. “Policymakers can have a tremendous influence over the future of the fashion industry and should use this moment to set ambitious and transformative parameters, not only on the climate but also considering the intersectionality of sustainability topics from equality and empowerment to living wages and contextual nature targets for instance on fresh water and biodiversity.”

Earlier this month, GFA and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a public Fashion Industry Target Consultation to identify and align the industry around a set of holistic sustainability targets. During the online launch event, the organisations called for industry participation in the consultation, initiating a unique, converged effort to set a clear route of travel for the fashion industry to align on not only the 1.5-degree pathway but also pathways to reduce virgin resource use, establish living wages and dignified work for all and protect nature.

In addition to identifying milestones, the consultation aims to identify what support different actors across the value chain need to take action to achieve a net-positive industry for people and the planet by 2050.

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By GlobalData

Linked to the consultation, stakeholders discussed ‘Circular Systems for a Net Positive Fashion Industry’ in an event on 12 November, with participants including climate activist Lily Cole, Marchionni, Elena Faleschini, senior manager brand partnerships for ISKO, and Miranda Schnitger, climate lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Speakers emphasised that:

  • A harmonisation of goals is critical to ensure that fashion industry targets are not set in silos but across the industry.
  • Policy is the foundation for transformative legal action and has the power to accelerate circularity.
  • Partnerships are key, not just within the value chain, but with collectives, NGOs, policy makers and other industries.
  • Investment in innovation – within for instance fabrics and facilities – can help to create quality and durable products.
  • Recycled materials must be incentivised to the degree they can compete with the price of virgin materials.

Cole said: “There is a systemic problem in our economy that is not incentivising circularity and recycling to happen, and where we see policies that would highlight the social and environmental costs, then you’d have a level playing field where recycled materials can actually start to compete.”

Faleschini added: “At the moment there is still not enough harmonisation between brands and manufacturers. We should make sure that targets are set not only in silos but across the industry.”

On 11 November, GFA hosted a panel on ‘Alliances for a new era: Decarbonising the fashion value chain’, where panellists included Catherine Chiu, vice president of corporate quality & sustainability at Crystal Group, and Dorte Rye Olsen, head of sustainability at Bestseller.

Key points raised included:

  • Various finance solutions are needed to accelerate decarbonisation, tailored to the contexts of various geographies, technologies and off-takers.
  • Investment should be applied throughout the value chain, and there is a need for both multi-brand partnerships and cross-sectoral partnerships with manufacturers.
  • It is important to increase energy efficiency upstream, to reduce energy consumption, alongside investments in renewables.
  • Parameters are needed to substantiate, report progress on, and drive accountability on ‘Net Zero’ commitments and claims.
  • As well as the need for aligned and controlled criteria for GHG accounting and insetting.
  • We have to work in parallel tracks, both individually as companies and collectively.

Olsen said: “There will not be enough renewable energy for our growth unless we reduce our energy consumption…It’s a two-pronged approach, so insetting and reduction is key.”