• 38 representatives of footwear and apparel brands have attended a two-day summit at the UN Climate Change secretariat in Bonn, Germany, to discuss global climate action for sustainable development in the fashion sector.
  • Representatives from Hugo Boss, Adidas, Kering, VF Corporation, and H&M were in attendance.
The brands explored how best to work with UN Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the sector, which is currently responsible for 1.2bn tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production annually

The brands explored how best to work with UN Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the sector, which is currently responsible for 1.2bn tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production annually

Some 38 representatives of footwear and apparel brands, including Hugo Boss, Adidas, Kering, VF Corporation, and H&M, have attended a two-day summit at the UN Climate Change secretariat in Bonn, Germany, to discuss global climate action for sustainable development in the fashion sector.

The brands explored how best to work with UN Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the sector, which is currently responsible for 1.2bn tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production annually. This is more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined, says UN Climate Change.

In addition, sector emissions are expected to rise by more than 60% by 2030, according to some estimates.

"I believe we stand at a turning point in history," said Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change executive secretary. "For the first time, humans are no longer just affected by weather cycles, we are affecting those cycles—and suffering the consequences of doing so."

Representatives of brands such as Puma and C&A were also in attendance, together with a yarn manufacturer, recycler and representatives of associations devoted to environmental sustainability in the fashion sector.

During the two-day summit, the group discussed possible environmental targets; regional dialogues with fashion industry suppliers; an online platform to engage in dialogue, globally and locally, and designed to bring together the many but separate environmental initiatives in the fashion and broader textile sector; and enhanced engagement with policymakers at the national level and international level, in the context of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Talks also focused on the development of a common narrative and communications, including at major meetings and conferences; showcasing of best practices and "ambitious action" on climate change; the need to reach out to brands, suppliers and stakeholders; and new business models that drive business while ensuring environmental sustainability.

"To turn things around, we must make a choice: we can keep on with business as usual and hope to survive the consequences...or take a good hard look at ourselves in the mirror and admit that we need a drastic and dramatic change," Espinosa added. "This change must come from all people, and all sectors of the business world, including the fashion sector."

The next step is preparation of a report by UN Climate Change to share with industry representatives, and then get moving on a programme of work to spur global climate action for sustainable development in the fashion sector, one that builds on the many existing environmental initiatives.

"The fashion sector has a huge challenge – complex supply chains from primary producers to retail shops, and fast-growing demand with limited recycling," said Niclas Svenningsen, who heads the fashion collaboration for UN Climate Change. "The many encouraging things that the industry is already doing, and the willingness of the industry to engage enthusiastically on climate and development should give us all hope, but there's a great deal that needs to be done."

A recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation raised an alarm, pointing to an estimated US$500bn value lost every year due to clothing that is "barely worn and rarely recycled," and which could lead to the industry accounting for a quarter of the world's carbon budget by 2050.