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Brands get away with murder: Stella McCartney and fashion figures on Cop26 fallout | Fashion




An the Cop26 conference, leading UK brands such as Stella McCartney, Burberry and Mulberry presented their vision of an ethical and sustainable industry. Today, there is a growing demand for all fashion companies to make legally binding commitments to tackle the impact of their supply chains on the environment. While hundreds of companies, including Kering, owner of Gucci, H&M and Inditex, which owns Zara, have signed the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, which sets scientific goals consistent with the Paris Agreement, there is no obligation to participate, nor a legal mandate to hold brands to account.

Leading industry figures say that if fashion brands are to have a chance to have a significant impact on the climate crisis, legislation is needed.

As recently as 2019, the UK government rejected all suggestions, including a ban on incineration or landfill of unsold inventory that can be reused or recycled, and mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover greater than 36m expressed in the report of the environmental audit committees. Fixing Fashion: Clothing Consumption and sustainability.

Well known for her campaign on ethical fashion, McCartney, who hosted her Future of Fashion exhibit at the conference, told The Guardian that the lack of a mandate is the reason brands get away with the murder and us. are in the critical state where we are. in. Incentives must be introduced for the industry to clean up, she said. The problem is that we have no way of measuring our harm as a collective. If we were to have a uniform method, brands would be required to disclose their [practices] and make informed changes to their supply chain.

British Fashion Council Managing Director Caroline Rush (center) poses with models and designers on the steps of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum during a photocall for the Great Fashion for Climate Action event
British Fashion Council Managing Director Caroline Rush (center) poses with models and designers on the steps of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum during a photocall for the Great Fashion for Climate Action event Photograph: Peter Summers / Getty Images for BFC

The fashion industry is currently the third largest manufacturer in the world, with clothing and footwear estimated to be responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. At this month’s conference, a trade policy request submitted by the Textile Exchange pointed out that global fiber production has nearly doubled in this century alone, Forbes reports, from 58 million tonnes in 2000 to 109 million tonnes in 2020.

Although the UNFCCC Fashion Charter for Climate Action also offers new commitments (including achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and sourcing environmentally friendly raw materials by 2030) at the Glasgow event, Liv Simpliciano, head of policy and research at campaign organization Fashion Revolution, says things need to accelerate and more pressing issues need to be addressed.

While there has been some positive progress, it is still way too slow, she says. What was glaringly missing from the conversation was the question of growth both in terms of financial growth and production volumes. With an average growth of 3 to 4% per year, the fashion industry must decouple financial growth from reduction of emissions. There are [also] a huge lack of visibility down the value chain. This is where human rights and environmental abuse flourish, and this is where we need stronger reduction commitments the most.

To help that, Simpliciano says brands need to stop relying on second-hand data to estimate emissions and collect their own to get the hard facts. They should be compelled to disclose their findings and encouraged by governments to track data throughout the supply chain in order to reduce their overall impact. Fashion Revolutions research shows that only 17% of brands disclose their annual carbon footprint in raw materials.

Dr Antoinette Fionda-Douglas of the Generation of Waste collective says companies still cling to such an extractive and exploitative business model[s] as long as they can to make as much profit as they can, refusing to accept that transformative and systemic change is needed if fashion is to ever be truly sustainable.

Yet Simpliciano stresses that it makes good business sense to produce better clothes in smaller quantities. According to the OR Foundation, brands overproduce their SKUs by 20 to 30%. Some accumulate billions of items each year that go unsold due to failures in forecasting demand, so there is a business case to produce less, produce smarter, and produce better.

Turning more to the issue of degrowth, she says that political, industrial and cultural changes must occur simultaneously. We can’t exactly tell fashion brands to produce less, but we can encourage them to slow down, and we know one way to do that is through consumer demand, or legislation and financial incentives. . She cites raising taxes for the culprits as a solution.

Overall, what we should be talking about more in the industry is post-growth, she adds. It means going beyond simply producing less and reaching a point where the idea of ​​success is not tied to the endless pursuit of growth and monetary reward. [but] where we can really start to value people rather than growth and profit.

Extinction Rebellion protests against fossil fuel fad in London
Extinction Rebellion protests against the fad of fossil fuels in London. Photograph: WIktor Szymanowicz / NurPhoto / REX / Shutterstock

To underline the need for brands to take responsibility, Generation of Waste staged a huge installation in the highly publicized blue zone of the conference. He showed that while post-consumer waste accounts for 92 million tonnes of textile waste generated worldwide per year, 57 million tonnes of textile waste is generated before consumption. This is thanks to a mix of design, production and distribution (the latter being responsible for filling the equivalent volume of the Londons O2 Center 19 times a year).

Too often, the solutions proposed by governments and industry place the blame and responsibility for waste on individual consumers or citizens, says Fionda-Douglas. It’s easier for big brands to push responsibility while they go about their business as usual.

Focusing only on net zero will not create the necessary change, she explains: As fashion is so interconnected with other sectors such as agriculture and transportation. Any new legislation must be holistic so that it can create positive ripple effects in the industry and affected communities.

To make tangible change quickly, Simpliciano says brands should focus on raw materials, given that half of total greenhouse gas emissions, as well as more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress , are due to the extraction and processing of resources.

Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council (BFC) which hosted its Great Fashion for Climate Action showcase at Cop26, told The Guardian: We need to slow the pace of the industry as a whole and invest in innovation to accelerate move it to a circular economy. Rush says brands and governments can develop new techniques, ashore manufacturing and recycling workers, extending the life of clothing and fibers by reintroducing old materials into the fashion economy and ending the linear life cycle currently associated with industry.

During the two-week Cop26 event, Burberry released an update on how it intends to process its materials at the source. Together with the Sustainable Fiber Alliance, its new biodiversity strategy promises, among other things, to ensure that all of its key materials such as leather, cotton and wool are 100% traceable by 2025. [These are] used most widely in our collections and contributes to our greatest impacts, says Pam Batty, vice president of corporate responsibility. The brand is also developing our approach to sourcing our materials from regenerative farming systems, which will work with farmers to adopt low-carbon practices for these key materials.

For all brands to scale sustainable practices, investment is needed, says Fionda-Douglas. There are amazing fashion organizations around the world that genuinely care about their contribution to a sustainable fashion future, but there aren’t enough resources or investments for these solutions to increase their impact in a sustainable way. .

Ultimately, says Simpliciano, we need to see the will of our lawmakers to take bold and unpopular action now.




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