September 21, 2019

Will a ‘Fashion Pact’ Make Fashion Greener?

Will a ‘Fashion Pact’ Make Fashion Greener?


PARIS — On Friday, François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of Kering, plans to unveil details of a Fashion Pact that he is to present to world leaders at the Group of 7 summit this weekend.

The agreement outlines group commitments focused on climate, biodiversity and oceans. It defines itself as “a set of guidelines” and will not be legally binding. The 32 signatories, which include high-end brands like Chanel, Prada and Hermès; athletic apparel names like Nike and Adidas; as well as fast fashion retailers like the H & M Group and Inditex, the parent company of Zara, say they will implement proposed changes to their own operations. No punitive measures will be imposed should they fall short of targets.

“The global challenges we are facing are complex,” Mr. Pinault wrote in an email on Thursday. “They know no borders. Only coalitions can overcome them, bringing together governments, businesses and civil societies.”

He went on: “This Fashion Pact is about saying: We have acknowledged the 21st century’s environmental issues, and we are taking our responsibility through collective action and common objectives.”

Scrutiny of the fashion industry’s impact on the global climate crisis has hit new heights in recent months, driven by consumer pressure to tackle its carbon footprint, and has prompted a flurry of brands to publish updated public sustainability commitments.

Globally, the fashion industry is responsible for about 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations, 20 percent of all wastewater, and consumes more energy than the international aviation and shipping industries combined. But confusion around the data related to fashion and sustainability has compounded issues for companies grappling with challenges for the sector.

The expected growth of the worldwide apparel and footwear market, pegged by Euromonitor analysts at roughly 5 percent through 2030, will risk “exerting an unprecedented strain on planetary resources,” a recent Euromonitor report said. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a British organization dedicated to building a circular economy, textile production emissions will rise more than 60 percent by 2030 if the industry stays on its current trajectory.

“Meaningful change will start here, given the volume and breadth of companies that have agreed to be part of this pact, and that is extremely exciting,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, the chief sustainability officer of Kering.

Representatives of the participating fashion houses are to join Mr. Pinault on Friday at the Élysée Palace for the announcement, as President Emmanuel Macron of France had asked the Kering executive to take on the task of rallying brands.

A follow-up meeting confirming more in-depth pledges will be held in October, Ms. Daveu said. For now, details on specific targets remain vague. Progress is to be voluntarily reported annually by the companies themselves.

To combat the climate crisis, the signatories commit to implementing “science-based targets” that could contribute to achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. These may include sustainable sourcing of key raw materials, and 100 percent use of renewable energy within supply chains by 2030.

Ms. Daveu defended the fact that there will be no punitive measures for signatories that fail to meet their targets.

“This is not about regulation,” she said. “We cannot punish groups directly. But by committing to improved and collective transparency, there is an incentive for those in this pact to stick to targets and not fall behind.”

Several fashion executives made public statements about the pact. “We know that one company cannot solve the environmental challenges facing our planet alone, and we believe in the power of collaboration to drive real change,” Marco Gobbetti, the chief executive of Burberry, said in a news release. “The objectives of the Fashion Pact strongly align with our own work in this area, and we are looking forward to working with the other signatories to help transform our industry.”

Some big names, like LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury group by sales, were conspicuous in their absence from the lineup.



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