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What COP27 means for the future of fashion

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By Niamh Walsh on 30th November 2022

Cop27 has finally started tackling the messy business of decreasing the fashion industry’s global impact, and, addressing the environmental crisis the fashion industry has helped to facilitate over the last couple of decades.

A few weeks ago, global stakeholders gathered in Egypt for the annual Cop27 summit (United Nations Climate Change Conference), where attention quickly turned to the fashion industry.

Considered by several sources to be the second-most polluting industry after the oil and gas sector – (fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output — more than international flights and shipping combined), it’s unsurprising that discussions pivoted towards fashion and its impact on the environment during the summit.

Source: Bloomberg

This year’s COP27 emphasised the important and crucial decisions fashion businesses must take to relay a positive impact on their carbon footprint. Examples were provided, such as using low carbon fibres to reduce the negative impact on the environment, and repurposing textile waste to create new clothes. As currently, only a fraction of what’s manufactured gets recycled; 87% of the total fibre input used for clothing is either incinerated or sent to a landfill.

Source: Bloomberg

With estimated global GHG emissions up to 10%, the fashion industry will need to slice them in half by 2030 and improve their commitment to protecting the planet through de-carbonisation initiatives and process improvements; placing an emphasis on transparency and traceability in the fashion sector to drive sustainable change rather than just 'greenwashing' their brand.

Discussions also focused on the shared responsibility of both consumers and stakeholders to accelerate sustainable action. Large corporations and companies must commit to net-zero goals; consumers are asked to act responsibly and not over-consume; and investors should provide increased financing to ESG-compliant actors; taking active measures to lower pollution, CO2 output, and reduce waste.

“The Sustainability Pledge” was highlighted as an example, allowing for pragmatic solutions to be utilised by investors, governments, and industry advocates. The objective of the pledge is to deploy companies towards clearer traceability and transparency in value chains with their pledges, through measurable efforts. And currently, around 100 pledges with company-specific KPIs have been submitted involving more than 350 partners.

The discussions surrounding how to achieve net-zero targets in the fashion industry led to some key highlights:

  • Significant investments to ensure scalable solutions that can help monitor and reduce GHG emissions industry-wide.

  • Collaboration within and across industries to understand the challenges and opportunities of the whole ecosystem.

  • Transparency and traceability approaches to help measure, identify and mitigate social and environmental effects along value chains.

  • International standards, de-risking fragmentation effects, to effectively communicate the environmental footprint of products.

  • Policy actions to ensure responsible business conduct in global value chains, e.g., by pricing in negative externalities or costs to society and the environment, as well as to establish a level playing field for companies in the industry.

  • Reconciled objectives among all stakeholders to avoid the exploitation of workers, land use or natural resources.

UNECE has recently established a team of specialists on ESG traceability to contribute to better and more informed decisions for sustainable production and consumption, allowing companies to rethink business models, enable circular design, recyclability, reuse and repairability.  

Source: UNECE Media

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