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Fashion Industry Debuts Landmark Climate Action Charter at COP24

As Tyra Banks might say, “Climate action, but make it fashion.”

More than 40 apparel-industry heavyweights, including Adidas, Burberry, Esprit, Guess, Gap, Hugo Boss, H&M, Inditex, Kering, Levi Strauss, Puma, Stella McCartney and Target have signed a milestone charter to collectively achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Unveiled at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change—informally known as COP24—in Katowice, Poland, on Monday, the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action seeks to address the climate impact of the fashion sector across its entire value chain by going “beyond previous industry-wide commitments.”

“The charter, which is open for other companies and organizations to join, recognizes the crucial role that fashion plays on both sides of the climate equation; as a contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions, and as a sector with multiple opportunities to reduce emissions while contributing to sustainable development,” UN Climate Change said in a statement.

Closely hewing to the goals of the Paris Agreement, the agreement features 16 principles and targets that revolve around issues to be addressed by the signatories. These include decarbonizing the production phase, selecting climate-friendly and sustainable materials, low-carbon transport, improving consumer dialogue and awareness, working with the financing community and policymakers to catalyze scalable solutions and exploring circular business models.  

“Concrete progress” on these commitments will be “pursued and developed collectively” by six industry-led working groups, which UN Climate Change will convene in early 2019.

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Rather than wait, however, signatories have set an initial target of 30 percent greenhouse-gas emission reductions by 2030, along with defined measures such as phasing out coal-fired boilers or other sources of coal-fired heat and power generation in their own companies and direct suppliers from 2025.

This target—which is one of many goals enshrined in the Charter—is a clear demonstration that the fashion industry is serious about urgently acting on climate change and is keen to set an example to other sectors around the level of commitment required to meet the scale of the climate challenge, UN Climate Change noted.

The industry-led charter has garnered the support of several trade and non-governmental organizations, including Business for Social Responsibility, China National Textile and Apparel Council, Global Fashion Agenda, Global Organic Textile Standard, the Outdoor Industry Association, Textile Exchange, World Wildlife Fund International and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.

“Climate change is undoubtedly one of, if not, the biggest challenge of our lifetime. It is and will affect everyone on this planet and our future,” said Stella McCartney. “This is why I am proud to be a signatory of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. I want to call on my peers in the business, from other brands to retailers and suppliers, to sign up to this charter now and take the necessary actions to address the reality of the issue of climate change in their business and value chains. Collectively we have a voice and the capacity to make a difference.”

Puma, which volunteered to lead a working group, agreed with the idea of collective over individual action. (And then banned fur for good measure.)

“We are aware that more than 90 percent of Puma’s carbon footprint is being generated in shared supply chains. If we want to reduce carbon emissions in our supply chains, we need to work together with our industry peers,” said Bjørn Gulden, CEO of Puma. “The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action provides a collective industry effort to support the goals of the Paris Agreement. We appreciate that UN Climate Change has set up a global platform and call upon our industry peers to join the initiative.”

So did Burberry, which swore off burning unsold product in September after a vociferous backlash. (And then banned fur for good measure.)

“Burberry is proud to be a signatory of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action,” said Marco Gobbetti, CEO at Burberry. “While we have committed to becoming carbon neutral in our own operations, achieving a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the entire global fashion industry by 2030 will require innovation and collaboration. By working together with other signatories of the charter, we believe that we can achieve systemic change and build a more sustainable future.”

Even the high street is backing the agreement.

“This charter is about getting the fashion industry united in important climate work. Our industry has a global reach and only together can we create the change that is urgently needed,” said Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of the H&M Group, which operates the H&M, COS, & Other Stories, Arket, Monki and Weekday brands. “We are happy to be a signatory of this charter as part of our ambition to become climate positive in our value chain.”

In October, Burberry, Stella McCartney, H&M and Inditex signed another UN agreement: this one, a commitment to eradicate plastic waste at the source. Spearheaded by the Ellen McArthur Foundation and UN Environment, the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is a “line in the sand” with a series of targets designed to create a “new normal” for plastic packaging, according to Ellen MacArthur, whose organization seeks to accelerate the advent of the circular economy and eradicate waste.