How the fashion industry is rallying together to achieve net-zero emissions

According a recent report by Quantis, the apparel and footwear industry contributes 8% to the world’s greenhouse gas (GHS) emissions, which almost as much as the climate impact of the European Union.

This is why in December 2018, the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action was launched under UN Climate Change with leading brands, retailers, suppliers, and others, signing up to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 across the industry and it’s entire value chain.

Signatories to the Charter commit to 16 principles, which I have summarized below:

  • A 30% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, monitoring of GHG emissions and setting of Science Based Targets
  • Actively develop a decarbonization strategy
  • Prioritize low-climate materials
  • Pursue energy efficiency, renewable energy and not install any new coal-fired power or heat generators in Tier 1 and Tier 2 facilities
  • Give preference to low-carbon logistics
  • Support circular business models
  • Drive awareness among end consumers about GHG impact of the use and end-of-life phase
  • Partner with the finance community, policy makers and governments to catalyze scalable solutions for the entire sector, including advocating for better policies, laws and infrastructure for climate action and renewable energy.
  • Communicate shared vision and have trust-building dialogue with relevant stakeholders.
  • Support UN Climate Change secretariat in tracking and recognition of the progress of commitments outlined in the Charter.

While individual actions by brands and retailers have been gaining momentum, this charter will hopefully catalyze action at a collective scale and enable sharing of best practices. This Charter is also unique, because something like this doesn’t seem to exist in other industries. The 16 principles summarized above also weave together commitments around other sustainability aspects such as sustainable materials and circular business models as well.

However, since this Charter is relatively recent, it is unclear how the signatories will be held accountable for their actions. How will their sustainability progress be tracked? While goals and vision of the commitment are long-term,  there should still be a way to track short-term efforts and outcomes. The charter does say that signatories will be part of working groups, meetings and calls, but doesn’t exactly say how members will be incentivized and held accountable.

The launch of this Charter must be celebrated, acknowledged and transcended to other industries. Over the next few months and years, it would be good if there is a transparent way to see how signatories are delivering on their commitments.

You can read the complete Charter here.


1 thought on “How the fashion industry is rallying together to achieve net-zero emissions”

  1. Thanks for the post, this really is an encouraging development! Reading through your article, a few things came to my mind:

    First, you question how signatories will be held accountable for their progress against charter principles. I completely agree with you that this is a crucial next step for the industry to figure out in order for this document to be more than a lip service. However, I am encouraged by the fact that the charter requires signatories to publicly report their GHG emissions and progress – this means NGOs will hopefully have the information they need to provide this accountability.

    Maybe the Cocoa Forest Initiative could be an example for the fashion industry to follow: This agreement not only contained clear short-term requirements for cocoa companies such as stopping sourcing from protected areas and mapping their supply chains, but also required signatories to release action plans detailing concrete steps of how they plan to end deforestation in the cocoa supply chain:

    Second, your post reminded me of H&M’s Conscious Collection which they are currently heavily advertising in stores here in Switzerland:
    I think it is great that fashion brands see sustainability as an advantage, but I am wondering in how far this is raising awareness with consumers and in how far it is misleading them… on their website they claim the conscious collection is “made from sustainably sourced materials and/or with sustainable methods”. Not sure this is enough for consumers to hold companies accountable for their environmental and social impacts.

    Lastly, while the charter does mention some other aspects of sustainability, it is very focused on carbon. I wonder how this document ties in with other sustainability initiatives in the industry, e.g. regarding cotton or worker rights. How can the industry leverage synergies and exchange best practices and learnings between all those different initiatives?

    Liked by 1 person

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