COPENHAGEN — The need to address the dominant, wasteful and eminently unsustainable fast fashion business model is a point which is notable by its absence in a new report which details seven sustainability priorities for fashion executives to consider. The report was produced by the Global Fashion Agenda, the non-profit which hosts the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in the run-up to this year’s May event.
‘The CEO Agenda’ 2018 highlights actions which the Global Fashion Agenda believes the fashion industry needs to address now, and has been created in collaboration with leading fashion companies and other apparel industry stakeholders, including Kering, H&M, Target, Bestseller, Li & Fung and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
The authors claim this is the first time key players from the apparel industry have joined forces to discuss what to prioritise in order to improve the industry’s environmental and social footprint. However, it needs to be pointed out in this context that such conversations have for several years been taking place within the confines of collaborative industry organisations such as the SAC and also the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Group. Industry events such as that of Textile Exchange have also, for many years, acted as a forum for collaborative discussions on such issues.
So what does the CEO Agenda recommend? Again, without wishing to sound too cynical, there is nothing particularly new or surprising here. There are seven recommendations for a more sustainable apparel industry. Three are urgent for immediate implementation, these being supply chain traceability among tier one and two suppliers (which many brands are already doing), the implementation of water, energy and chemical efficiency programmes in processing stages (ditto) and the upholding of standards for the respect of universal human rights for all people employed along the value chain (CSR programmes are incorporated in most reputable brands’ CSR activities).
The four “transformational priorities” are, reducing the negative effects of existing fibres and developing new, more sustainable fibres; designing products and inventing novel collection and recycling systems that enable the reuse and recycling of post-consumer textiles at scale; collaborating with industry stakeholders to explore opportunities to develop and implement better wage systems; and embracing the opportunities in the digitalisation of the value chain and engage with other brands, manufacturers and governments to prepare for the transition of workforces.
The CEO Agenda does a great job of framing the issues at hand for the apparel industry but, as we have written before, framing the problems is not the challenge; we can think of any number of industry reports that have already done that. Practical, scaleable solutions are what we need right now. We wait with interest to see if these are in evidence at this year’s Copenhagen Summit.