BIARRITZ – 31 global apparel brands including H&M, Puma, Galeries Lafeyette, Kering, Selfridges, Nordstrom and Ralph Lauren recently signed a new ‘Fashion Pact’, which was presented to heads of state during the G7 meeting at Biarritz. The brands have pledged to tackle climate issues, biodiversity and oceans. But, on a practical level, what are they actually doing over and above their existing sustainability work as a direct result of signing this pact?
Having reviewed this pact in detail, we are not entirely sure. The vague, generic claims made as part of the pact make objective assessment of it difficult.
The pact itself acknowledges it will “build on the existing initiatives such as Apparel Impact Institute, C&A Foundation, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Fair Fashion Center, Fashion For Good, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Textile Exchange, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), UN International Labour Organization/Better Work, ZDHC.”
That’s a lot of initiatives right there. Are these not enough? Remember also, that brands have their own internal sustainability targets. The fashion pact says its aim is to, “ensure that new actions will fill the ‘gaps’ across fashion supply chains.”
Mmm. How will these gaps be identified? One would imagine this would be an arduous, fiendishly difficult task.
The pact points out that the “document is not legally binding and can be seen as a set of guidelines.” Surely the fashion industry already has guidelines on these issues coming out of its ears? And if the document is not binding, is there really a point to it?
So what of specifics? The pact calls for brand commitments on the three issues of climate, biodiversity and protecting the oceans.
What do signatories have to do in these areas? On climate, the pact says: “We [signatory] will commit to implement Science-Based Targets (SBTs) on climate and drive corporate actions that are consistent with a 1.5-degree pathway through a ‘just transition’ to achieve net-zero by 2050.”
Brands are then given a number of options regarding specific targets/actions and, from the looks of it, the only have the fulfill one. One of these is, “supporting climate adaptation and resilience through sustainable sourcing of key raw materials.”
This really could mean anything. Who decides what sustainable sourcing means? Not only is this unclear, but it is also obvious that what might be sustainable sourcing now probably won’t be by the time of the 2050 target.
Secondly, signatories commit to “support the development of SBTs on biodiversity and the implementation of these targets within our sector to assure our contribution to the protection and restoration of ecosystems and the protection of key species.”
The pact then calls for signatories to develop a biodiversity strategy. What might this entail? The document explains: “Company biodiversity strategies may include …” and lists a number of options, one of which is “ensuring that we do not contribute to the loss or degradation of natural forests.”
One would hope that this would be taken as a given in this day and age but apparently not according to the creators of this pact.
Finally, the pact calls for signatories to commit to significantly reduce the negative impacts they have on the ocean environment, in collaboration with other existing leading initiatives.
To which the only logical response is that most of the signatories to this pact are already doing this via numerous industry initiatives which have been set up on this area in recent years.
So why was a fashion pact presented at the G7? The only logical conclusion is a combination of political grandstanding for all involved combined with brands being once again happy to accept some nice PR for not actually doing much.
Some believe greenwash is a thing of the past. Yet politically motivated initiatives like this suggest the issue is worse than ever.