The Transformers Foundation’s report titled “Towards A Collective Approach: Rethinking Fashion’s Doomed Climate Strategy” takes a critical look at the challenges within the fashion sector’s climate initiatives and suggests a collaborative approach to tackling decarbonisation.

The report highlights potential shortcomings in the fashion industry’s roadmap for achieving climate goals with in-depth interviews from denim suppliers and stakeholders from major garment-producing nations it says it hopes to provide insights into how the fashion industry can re-evaluate its climate strategy.

The Transformers Foundation engaged with 27 individuals working
for companies supplying denim or related components such as the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters (BGMEA), Artistic Milliners, Advance Denim, Lenzing and Shahi Exports. Plus, six individuals working for educational institutions or NGOs related to fashion.

With regulatory developments on the horizon, such as the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive and the New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act, the study underscores the pressing need for a more equitable and pragmatic approach to decarbonisation.

While the Transformers Foundation says it supports the collective objectives of the Paris Agreement, the research suggests that the approach must evolve to ensure practicality, fairness, and shared responsibility in the journey to decarbonise fashion. This entails a shift towards shared responsibility for climate action rather than an undue burden on suppliers.

The paper also points to the need for a broader consideration of funding, cautioning that carbon mitigation efforts may stall if suppliers are expected to carry the primary burden of both decarbonisation work and its financial implications.

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By GlobalData

Kim van der Weerd, intelligence director of the Transformers Foundation said: “This report articulates how and why the sector’s current approach to climate action makes it a supplier responsibility, rather than a collective responsibility.

“It also offers evidence for why this is not only inequitable but also impractical and doomed to fail. At the same time, by putting forward a definition of collective action, I hope this paper gives a framework for how we could accelerate action.”

Transformer Foundation’s recommendations

  • Shift mindset from I to we: A collective approach to climate action requires re-evaluating the role in transforming inequitable business contexts. It means shifting away from “How do I make other entities behave differently” and towards the question “What can I or we do to co-create a system that can effectively meet these targets? The focus must shift swiftly from targets to finding ways to address inequities and transform the broader financial, cultural, and social ecosystem that makes delivering climate action — and yes targets — possible.
  • Centre equity: The industry must negotiate how equity (including factoring in margins and profits), historical emissions, the broader international commitment to a just transition, and the common but differentiated approach laid out by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 (which calls on “developed” nations to take the lead on combating climate change) should factor into targets and roadmaps. A collectivist approach would vigilantly guard against any initiatives or roadmaps that make decarbonisation a supplier’s largely solitary burden.
  • Fund collectively: The industry must work urgently to identify and address funding needs for “fast payback” projects that offer returns. Simultaneously, the industry must devise new funding models and come together to collectively fund decarbonisation projects that offer no return or very long payback periods that are too risky for suppliers to take on themselves.  
  • Factor in potentiality and context: New targets and roadmaps should be based on a company’s potential to decarbonise, considering technical feasibility and context. Differentiated targets may be set for different companies, with higher targets being achievable within a collective framework. Contextual factors include renewable electricity sources, feasibility of creating renewable energy sources, technical knowledge, energy efficiency optimisation potential, and a company’s decarbonisation trajectory.
  • Rapidly expand potential through collaboration: The industry should simultaneously collaborate to identify and overcome any barriers to decarbonisation potential, thereby working together to rapidly expand the potential. For example, the industry might collaborate to address skilled labour shortages, set up access to purchasing-power agreements or fund experimental lower-carbon equipment. This also likely means targets and roadmaps need to be flexible and updated, shifting based on changing potentiality.