How Fashion is Ramping Up its Climate Efforts at COP26

There’s no doubt that the sustainability conversation in fashion has come on leaps and bounds

There’s no doubt that the sustainability conversation in fashion has come on leaps and bounds in the past three years, with brands racing to announce various eco-minded policies—whether it’s commitments to reaching net zero or the ambition to be carbon positive (meaning that companies are drawing more carbon from the atmosphere than is emitted).

Still, given that a 2020 report by the Global Fashion Agenda found the industry’s emissions are actually set to rise to around 2.7 billion tons a year by 2030, if current measures stay the same, it’s clear there’s a huge amount of work that still needs to be done. In fact, based on the current trajectory, fashion’s emissions would actually be at double the maximum level required to be in line with the Paris Agreement’s aim to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

That’s why the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter For Climate Action – originally launched in 2018 and signed by 130 brands, including the likes of Burberry, Chanel and Gucci-owner Kering—is ramping up its efforts to reduce fashion’s environmental impacts, with brands now committing to halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to the previous target of 30{df277fece0e332513078d4db57f50d7f29a9f255adc120b3235ad73f23ad2e97}) or setting Science Based Targets, an initiative that sets out a roadmap to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

“We realised [the 2018 Fashion Charter] isn’t enough any longer,” Niclas Svenningsen, manager of Global Climate Action at UN Climate Change, said at the Fashion Charter event in Glasgow. “We need to make it stronger, more concrete, more ambitious.”

LVMH, the owner of Louis Vuitton, Dior and Saint Laurent, has also signed up to the Fashion Charter for the first time—a significant move considering the power that the conglomerate holds in the industry.

Along with commitments to cut emissions more rapidly, the Charter has also set a new target for 100{df277fece0e332513078d4db57f50d7f29a9f255adc120b3235ad73f23ad2e97} of “priority” materials – such as cotton, viscose, polyester, wool and leather – to be low climate impact by 2030. The agreement specifically points to materials that can be recycled in a closed loop, and are deforestation-free, conversion-free (meaning natural ecosystems are not destroyed in the process) and produced using regenerative practices.

“It really sets the picture for where the industry needs to be heading when it comes to sourcing materials,” Claire Bergkamp, chief operating officer at Textile Exchange, one of the signatories of the Fashion Charter, told Vogue, adding that financial incentives for brands is crucial in order to reach the target set (more than 50 companies, including the likes of Kering, Stella McCartney and Chloé, have now called on governments to implement policy change on this).