Fashion brands such as Burberry and H&M are among 130 companies that have pledged to halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but the wider industry will fall well short based on its present trajectory.
The prominent brands this week lifted their target from a previous goal of cutting emissions by one-third that was set in 2018, as part of an effort to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C since pre-industrial times under the Paris accord.
However, the signatories to the updated UN fashion charter, including LVMH, Kering, Chanel, Nike, Adidas and Puma, represent just a fraction of the sprawling apparel and footwear industry.
The global industry was responsible for about 4 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 — comparable to the combined emissions of France, Germany and the UK, according to McKinsey.
“The industry realised the 2018 commitment is not sufficient,” said Achim Berg, fashion lead at McKinsey. “We should celebrate that it is moving in the right direction, but the whole industry needs to move from commitments to action.”
Brands have 12 months to submit plans on how they will reach the updated target.
Independently of the fashion charter, brands have used the COP26 summit to announce various climate-related initiatives.
Pangaia, marketed as an eco-friendly and ethically-made label, hosted a roundtable in Glasgow to bring awareness to diminished bee populations, while boot brand Ugg launched a partnership with a shoe repair company, encouraging customers to restore their footwear (for $80), rather than buy a new pair.
“COP26 is a platform that can show what is possible if we bring innovators, suppliers, customers and other partners on board to find innovative solutions.” said Kim Hellström, H&M’s strategy lead on climate. “But it also shows that there is still a lot to do to significantly lower our industry’s footprint.”
Alongside updated commitments to cut emissions, the charter promises to reduce the environmental impact from the use of materials such as cotton, viscose, polyester, wool and leather. The textiles sector this week also called for policy change to incentivise the use of “environmentally preferred” materials, such as organic cotton and recycled fibres.
Unless brands worked on their supply chains, “we won’t get where we need to be,” Holly Syrett, sustainability director at non-profit group Global Fashion Agenda, said. Approximately 70 per cent of the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions stem from energy-intensive raw material production.
Syrett said the high profile of popular brands such as Nike, H&M, and luxury brand owners such as LVMH and Kering, may influence industry-wide targets.
“Because of this increased awareness and because the target has shifted, we do have a higher ambition level and that will help us unlock the investment that’s needed,” said Syrett.
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