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Fashion Needs ‘New Leadership’ in Climate Fight

Two of the industry’s sustainability-focused leaders are teaming up to facilitate global discussions about fashion’s ecological output—and its forward-looking goals for mitigating impact.

On Wednesday, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) will host its annual symposium in concert with the Textile Exchange’s Textile Sustainability Conference. The fully virtual event, dubbed ReVision: Accelerating Action for a Reimagined Future, will serve as a venue for attendees to digitally connect and cultivate new partnerships with industry peers and help develop action agendas to accelerate their sustainability plans.

As the developer of the Higg Index, SAC said it plans to continue to encourage conference attendees to adopt the suite of tools helping organizations paint a picture of their social and environmental performance throughout the value chain and determine what they need to improve.

Keynote speakers include risk and behavioral scientist Dr. Sweta Chakraborty and Jason Judd, the executive director Cornell University’s New Conversations Project, a research initiative examining global supply chain labor conditions. Chakraborty will address how to galvanize behavioral change to help address the climate crisis, while Judd will speak to the future of the apparel industry’s post-Covid workforce.

Noting that the two organizations are aligned in their goal of “transforming the industry,” SAC executive director Amina Razvi said it is imperative that the sector “look at leadership from a broader lens.”

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“We believe revisioning the future is about working towards collective goals and deeply connected strategies, through a new kind of leadership at every level, one in which we serve with humility, commit with courage, and partner with intent,” she added.

Programming will also feature content created through collaborative work between SAC, Textile Exchange, the Apparel Impact Institute and Roadmap to Zero (ZDHC). Dubbed the Fashion Conveners, the alliance has developed resources over the past year related to programs and tools for lessening greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, global implementation tactics, impact management, funding and administration and infrastructure. A special session will feature updates on the Fashion Conveners’ collective efforts and elucidate their commitments to reduce GHGs by 45 percent, SAC said.

“This is a great opportunity for both our organizations to leverage expertise and resources to engage the industry as a whole in telling a combined story to make the sustainability journey as simple as possible for everyone regardless of the stage they are at,” Textile Exchange co-founder and CEO La Rhea Pepper said. “For us to scale solutions and get to 45 percent, we need to fully commit to shifting towards concrete actions to move the industry forward.”

According to Razvi, the duo has been actively following developments at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow. The United Nations climate politics conference has seen speakers like former president Barack Obama—as well as protesters and activists like Greta Thunberg who believe that the COP26 conference and others like it enable governments and organizations to continue to maintain a status quo on climate action. What’s more, some of the world’s largest polluting nations—China and Russia—continue to skip the conference, rather than participate in discussions about how to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius as laid out in the Paris climate agreement.

In Thunberg’s opinion, “It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place,” she said at a rally of 25,000 last week. Denouncing the conference as a “greenwash festival,” the teenage Swede blasted corporate decision-makers and legislators alike. “They are not doing nothing; they are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves and to continue profiting from this destructive system,” she said.

“Despite recent reports and the outcomes demonstrating the need for a new approach to leadership to address the crisis facing the world,” SAC is “bolstered by the concrete agreements world leaders are making pushing for action,” it said.

“By committing to a new kind of leadership that is rooted in partnership, serving with humility, committing with courage and partnering with intent, the industry will be able to accelerate action and transform the industry,” it added.