COP27’s top takeaways for fashion brands

During the biggest climate conference in the world — COP27, which wrapped up in Egypt last week — it became more apparent that the fashion industry still has work to do to right-track its environmental impact. But experts are optimistic that sustainability initiatives and environmental impact awareness will remain focuses for the industry in the coming year, based on the groundwork that’s been established. 

According to experts at COP27, here are three ways fashion brands can promote sustainability in 2023.

Start acting on fashion’s ‘brain print,’ not just it’s footprint

Rachel Arthur, sustainability consultant and founder of sustainable community platform FashMash, said there needs to be a shift in the narrative around fashion’s environmental impact. The industry’s emissions are said to account for 2-8% of total global emissions, but that’s just one piece of the pie. “The industry has a much larger brain print,” said Arthur, explaining that fashion has a broader impact on people’s lifestyles. She stated that the industry’s focus on continuous consumption, trends, and exclusivity has led to wider consumption habits.  “That responsibility, whether you’re a fast fashion brand or a luxury brand or anything in between, is huge, in terms of the change that we can be making.” 

“Looking into 2023 and beyond, the industry needs to take more ownership in starting to turn things around,” said Arthur. “Fashion can point consumers, businesses, other sectors and policy makers toward a lifestyle that will keep us within that 1.5 degree target,” set by the Paris Agreement to curb planet-changing climate effects. 

Ebay and Vestiaire Collective are urging consumers not to buy new products but to purchase resale. Fashion is also having an impact on other industries, including science through investment or proof of concept. Take, for example: Hermès Made a bag out of mycelium with MycoWorks. Pangaia is expanding her list of material partners. 

COP27 announced a number of new initiatives. Partner between retailers including H&M, Kering and Inditex with non-profit Canopy. The brands have pledged to purchase over half a million tonnes each of low-carbon alternatives fibers to be used in clothing and packaging to reduce their carbon emissions.

“​​We don’t currently have big, commercial-scale production at this point, with the notable exception of our Renewcell mill [opened November 14],” said Nicole Rycroft, founder and executive director of Canopy. “But these purchasing commitments by brands [could] This will change the landscape by signaling to investors that this market is open to sourcing these innovative solutions. We anticipate that we’ll have at least 10-20 of these mills between now and 2025.”

Debbie Shakespeare, Avery Dennison RBIS’ head of sustainability compliance, core PLM and core PLM, spoke at COP27. She said that fabric recycling should be a key focus for brands. “If we recycle fabrics on an industrial scale, the costs of recycled material will come down, and brands will be able to make real progress toward their Scope 3 sustainability goals. It will take a reliable information bridge to enable all parties to be able to fully understand the provenance, material make-up and purpose of every garment. [obtain] information on how to recycle.”

Open conversation to resolve tensions between ESG and antitrust commitments

Transparency could become a cornerstone topic of sustainability conversations in the industry, to ensure they don’t violate antitrust laws. This year, the antitrust factor was in play.

In May 2022 Reuters Reports indicate that the agreement was signed by several fashion companies Forum letter and created the Rewiring Fashion E.U. had seized a proposal submitted in May 2021. Antitrust regulators were cited for antitrust violations. They were Selfridges, Rodarte and Thom Browne among others. Both the letter and proposal were focused on limiting global brands’ practices of releasing multiple collections a year, as well as repairing the damaging impact of the fashion calendar on brand sales. One, fast fashion brands copy runway designs.  

This is a problem for the industry. How can sustainable production and systems changes be made without affecting the current market? Although the answer is still being sought, fashion houses and brands will be more likely to implement change if there are open conversations alongside government reform. 

“Growing the fashion industry will grow its greenhouse gas footprint at the same time, unless we carve out more sustainable models for production and consumption,” said Shakespeare. “That means fully embracing circularity, investing in innovation and scaling proven innovative solutions.”

Moreover, the U.S. Fashion Act and the E.U. sustainable textile strategy regulation are being implemented. Commission in May are affecting brands’ long-term planning. The E.U. All goods imported to the E.U. will be subject to E.U. standards and regulations Beginning in 2030 and continuing through the recent Modified The Fashion Act could be passed in the next year. Fashion retailers and manufacturers doing business in New York will be subject to the Fashion Act.

The industry is working together to find new ways to reduce revenue from extraction of resources through de-growth. “All across the value chain, from raw material procurement to the supply chain to consumer facing revenue streams, sustainability is an alternative source of value creation. This value could come in the form of risk reduction, margin enhancement or speed to market. [it provides], like resale,” said Frank Zambrelli, executive director of the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business. “Companies have begun recognizing that their products need to be built and priced with the idea of selling them more than once, with materials that help them reach both their financial goals and the ESG targets, for investors to reward such behavior with higher valuations.”

According to management consulting company Bain and Co., purpose-led brands “create a virtuous cycle that forms the heart of a new, self-reinforcing model of purpose-driven capitalism” by shining a light on an existing ESG issue. They attract and motivate top-quality employees, increase retailer demand and pique consumer interest. That results in greater growth and increased investor interest. In seed funding, Active Partners and Venrex provided $5.7 million to Tala, a sustainable activewear brand. Venture capital firm Molten Ventures closed a $25.3million Series A financing round for Material Exchange. This platform allows users to source sustainable suppliers.

Cross-brand collaboration is the norm in co-opetition

Brands that like Puma Already, people are talking about cooperation with competitors to reach a common goal. “Across and within industries, leadership is becoming attuned to the [fact] that certain elements of fashion industry transformation simply cannot happen without partnership,” said Zambrelli. 

“Every company will be reliant on their partners, vendors and suppliers to assist them and each other in achieving publicly facing greenhouse emissions targets,” said Zambrelli. “The next few years will see a revolution in collaboration, as stakeholders find new ways, products, services and information systems that facilitate these partnerships [facilitating] greater sustainable and financial success.”

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