Signed at this week’s COP27 summit in Sharm El Sheik, and spearheaded by environmental non-profit Canopy, the commitment towards more sustainable, lower-carbon alternative fibres – known as Next Generation Solutions – reflects a building urgency across industries to accelerate the transition to nature-positive business models.

The market pull is essential to attract the investment necessary to scale these game-changing Next Generation alternative fibres on ecologically meaningful timelines, Canopy says. It is a move that will support the protection of the world’s vital forests and ecosystems and lower forest degradation pressures from the fashion and packaging supply chains.

“We are thrilled to advance this commitment with forward-looking partners who are willing to challenge the status quo and in doing so provide a breakthrough for these game-changing technologies,” said Canopy founder and executive director, Nicole Rycroft. “This commitment will allow us to take a historic leap closer to the US$64bn of investments in sustainable alternatives needed to ensure forest conservation for our planet’s climate and biodiversity stability.”

At last year’s UN Climate Change Conference, protecting nature was at the centre of commitments to deliver on global climate targets. Today one-third of the world’s most influential companies have yet to make forest conservation commitments, Canopy says, despite the scientific community’s warnings that at least 50% of the world’s forests need to be conserved or restored by 2030 to ensure global temperature rises stay below 1.5 °C.

Figures from Canopy show that every year, over 3.2 billion trees are cut down to produce fibre for packaging and clothing, releasing vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Wood fibre alternatives – such as agricultural residues and recycled textiles – are readily available and can be scaled. Moving to Next Generation Solutions could help avoid almost 1Gt of CO2 emissions between now and 2030, it says.

“At H&M Group, we are committed to becoming a circular business, in which moving towards more sustainable alternatives for our materials is crucial. Canopy has showed true leadership by bringing the fashion and regenerated cellulosic industries together with the purpose of reducing fashion’s dependency on forests,” said Madelene Ericsson, environmental sustainability business expert H&M

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The signatories have also committed to ensuring their respective supply chains are free of Ancient and Endangered Forests and are calling on industry peers to follow suit by shifting towards sustainable Next Generation alternative fibres such as ones made from agricultural residue or recycled textiles.

When compared to forest fibres, Next-Generation Solutions have on average: 95% to 130% less CO2 emissions, 18% to 70% less fossil energy resource depletion, 88% to 100% less land-use impacts, and at least 5x lower impact on biodiversity/threatened species.

Last month Canopy confirmed it had reached a milestone of over 500 brands committing to keep products from vital forests out of their fabric supply chains.