It’s no secret that the fashion industry has a serious sustainability problem. It is purportedly the second most pollutive industry in the world after Big Oil, generates more greenhouse gases than the entire international flying and maritime trade industry combined, and routinely destroys perfectly good unsold products. But all is not lost; some 32 fashion companies (amounting to approximately 150 brands) have just signed a voluntary agreement to reduce their (substantial) environmental footprint.
Dubbed the Fashion Pact, the agreement was presented to world leaders at the annual G7 summit in Biarritz at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron. In May, Macron had nominated Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault to form and lead the industry’s sustainability coalition, which gave the business magnate a scant four months to pull the Pact together.
The Pact is threefold; it aims to stop global warming by reaching zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, restore biodioversity by protecting natural ecosystems, and protect the oceans by reducing pollution and mitigating the effects of climate change. The achievement of the goals will be measured using science-based targets.
To accomplish this, the pact says it does not intend to “reinvent the wheel”, but to create a framework based on the existing initiatives within the fashion industry. These initiatives include those by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
Noteworthy commitments of the Pact includes net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 (for which science-based targets will be implemented), supporting material and process innovations that have no negative impact on ecosystems (e.g. using more sustainable fabrics), and the elimination of microfibre pollution from the washing of synthetic materials. Signatories also pledged to ensure social inclusion, fair wages and respectful working conditions along their supply chain, with a focus on empowering smaller producers and women in low-income countries. Although not climate-related per se, the pledge is still a laudable one.
The Pact also plans to enact joint initiatives—such as new approaches to farming and material sourcing as well as building systems for transparency and accountability in the supply chain—and use accelerators such as educating consumers and encouraging the building of a circular economy.
The Pact comprises brands that span the fashion spectrum, ranging from top luxury brands such as Chanel, Hermes, Prada, and Kering-owned Gucci, down through Stella McCartney, Nike, and Adidas to H&M and Inditex’s Zara and Bershka. It is, after all, only by having the participation of brands throughout the fashion price spectrum that greater change can be achieved. The participation of Stella McCartney is particularly noteworthy—although the brand is renowned for being ahead of the sustainability curve and is a natural Pact partner, it did also recently part ways with Kering in 2018 before inking a deal with rival conglomerate LVMH early this year.
LVMH and its brands (which include the likes of Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Fendi) are not part of the Fashion Pact.
As the Fashion Pact is still in its nascent stages, it is difficult to determine what its concrete impact will be, but given that this is an industry-wide initiative that combines efforts from both the public and private sectors, it does give us hope in fashion’s sustainable future.
For a detailed look at the Fashion Pact and its signatories, click here.