Circularity, carbon, community and pre-competitive collaboration, the four C’s of sustainability, dominated this year’s Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen. The resounding message? Urgently needed progress is reliant on the industry working together to achieve it.
“To go faster, the entire industry has to be mobilised behind sustainability targets,” says Francois Souchet, global head of sustainability and impact at New York consulting and communications agency BPCM, who attended the summit with 900 members of the fashion industry across Kering, the United Nations, Burberry and Nike. If it wasn’t already clear that sustainability is incredibly complex, this summit proved it, he says.
This year’s theme was “alliances for a new era” but high-level pacts and promises can only go so far, says Fashion Innovation Agency’s Moin Roberts-Islam. “Bold, visionary statements give the industry a North Star, but they often don’t change the situation on the ground. Real progress will come from brands collaborating with their competitors and meeting solutions providers, sharing successful case studies for others to learn from and replicate.” To this end, many criticised a lack of diversity, and particularly speakers from within the supply chain, at the forum.
The fashion industry does have several alliances at play, but they are disjointed and mostly voluntary. The Fashion Pact, which includes over 75 groups and companies, with brands from Gucci to Chanel, has promised to stop global warming, restore biodiversity and protect the oceans, but is not legally binding. Similarly, the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action has levels of membership, with some signatories committed to its clauses and others for whom implementing change in their own supply chain is not a condition of entry.
There were some positives: universal standards and shared industry values were core to the GFA Monitor, a new report to guide fashion brands towards a net positive industry by the event organiser, Global Fashion Agenda (GFA). GFA also unveiled the Global Circular Fashion Forum, a global initiative to scale the recycling of post-industrial textile waste in textile manufacturing countries. Supply chain transparency and traceability platform TrusTrace released an open-source traceability playbook in collaboration with campaigning organisation Fashion Revolution and Amsterdam-based change agency Fashion for Good, whose partners include Kering and PVH.
But there is work to do. Hotly discussed topics were decarbonising the supply chain, sustainability in the metaverse and garment worker rights. Challenges that persist include a lack of funding for significant change and representation from the communities on the frontlines of fashion’s impact.
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