Updated: Nov 22, 2021
The Fashion Industry 2050 Charter for Climate Action was launched in December 2018 by fashion actors under the auspices of UN Climate Change with the vision of achieving net-zero emissions in the industry. It has been supported by a range of relevant organizations, including brands, suppliers and retailers, fashion actors, and nonprofits.
The charter aims to develop a transformational way for the industry to reduce emissions and drive climate action in the industry by supporting other fashion industry initiatives aimed at increasing climate action.
The fashion industry has faced many sustainability-related challenges over the past few years, as a growing number of consumers and investors demand more transparency and action from the industry to address these concerns. The COVID-19 crisis has only added to these challenges, with the pandemic affecting all phases of the value chain. As a result, an increased focus on sustainable production and consumption will accelerate in the near future with the digitization of business processes and operations.
Two main issues that trigger emissions in the apparel industry: how clothes and shoes are produced and how much they cost. There are viable strategies to address both challenges. However, they require significant investment and the involvement of a number of key players. Therefore, decarbonizing the fashion industry value chain can be achieved through multiple actions, including but not limited to scaling up energy-efficient solutions and renewable energy sources, phasing out coal, and sourcing lower carbon material alternatives. Still, clothing production is expected to increase and translate into increased emissions, even with cleaner energy sources. More solutions to adapt to this environment require moving to circular economy strategies and new business models that can lead to different patterns of production and consumption.
To use the combined strength of the industry to overcome these challenges and realize the necessary solutions, fashion industry players and the UN Climate Change Charter launched. In essence, the charter aims to accelerate concrete action while working on a long-term strategy to support an industry aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The work of the charter, facilitated by UN Climate Change, is led and executed by the signatories. Any company or organization professionally operating in the fashion industry and committed to the principles of the charter is open to participation. Participation is also open to industry organizations and coalitions that are in a position to contribute significantly to the achievement of the charter's objectives. The work is done with the central aim of reducing emissions under GHG Protocol 1, 2, and 3 by 30 percent by 2030, each focusing on one or more of the 16 commitments of the charter.
During the first two years, work under the Charter focused on understanding the climate environment for the industry, identifying and proposing short-term actions, and discussing the building blocks for applying the long-term vision. Work continued throughout 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019-2020, some of the Charter's activities included:
mobilizing 125 companies and 41 supporting organizations;
Develop and launch the Playbook for Climate Action, which aims to assist fashion stakeholders at the start of climate action in identifying climate strategies, initiatives, and programs that can support them in undertaking their decarbonization journey;
Documents a representation of known decarbonization targets, implementation initiatives, and report analyzes compiled to support the development of milestones, support the fashion industry's transition to net-zero carbon emissions;
Join the CDP reporting platform to monitor and report on the progress of climate commitments;
Conducting in-depth research to assess gaps in life cycle analysis data for cotton and polyester;
Developing a shared understanding of the different climate policy environments and their barriers and solutions to energy efficiency, renewable energy and coal phase-out in key upstream markets in the sector;
Organizing case studies and webinars demonstrating how existing financial tools in the fashion industry can be used and how financial stakeholders can foster dialogue on opportunities to support the transition to a low carbon future;
Hosting a climate dialogue as part of the Race to Dialogues Against Zero, which focuses on key milestones for decarbonizing the fashion industry and the importance of politics, finance and engagement with the Global South
lead the development of a series of online climate action training modules for suppliers based on the Playbook for Climate Action;
Continuing to develop policy engagement roadmaps in major manufacturing countries, including the publication of a call for cooperation and other specific calls to action;
Become official partners of Race to Zero, a global campaign to gather leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions and investors for a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs and paves the way for inclusive, sustainable growth;
Hundreds of working groups are invited to share best practices with industry stakeholders and discuss opportunities and plans to accelerate industry transformation and challenges in this context.
The first Fashion Pact annual meeting took place in October 2020, where the signatories evaluated the progress made so far and outlined the work for the coming years. As part of this, a task force was created to help increase ambition.
An important takeaway from the meeting was the recognition that more coordinated collaboration is needed to decarbonize fashion supply chains.
In this context, a rapid action program has been designed for post-2021, which addresses the outputs that can be communicated with COP 26 and outlines the focus areas of action over the next five years:
alignment with 1.5°C temperature target;
encourage the systematization of more ambitious raw material targets;
growing renewable energy;
phasing out coal;
promoting wider climate action;
accelerating policy engagement efforts.
Work under the Fashion Industry Statement of Climate Action has helped prepare the ground for action so far, and there is a lot of work to be done to achieve the Charter's ultimate goal of achieving net-zero emissions in the industry by 2050. Because fashion has a significant carbon footprint, the industry as a whole needs to scale up ambition and tangible action.
The effect of fashion on climate
Climate change, the result of alarmingly rapid increases in greenhouse gas emissions mostly from human-based activities, is a challenge we are currently facing with its consequences. Data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service show that 2020 is on par with the warmest year ever recorded (2016), making 2011-2020 the hottest decade on record.
This translates into effects ranging from sea level rise to extreme events such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes that cost the economy billions of dollars each year and devastate lives and livelihoods.
In 2020 alone, natural disasters resulted in losses from 166 billion USD 2019, a worldwide record of 210 billion USD.
While the Paris Agreement is a major climate achievement, the current commitments of countries to meet their goals are insufficient.
The Emissions Gap Report 2020 reveals that NDC targets will need to increase by more than five times to reach the 1.5°C targets. Also, the longer it takes to achieve the required average annual emissions reductions, the harder it will be to reach the target on time. The report estimates that to reach the 1.5°C targets, global emissions must decrease by about 7.6 percent per year between 2020 and 2030. By 2025, the required cutback will increase to 15.5 percent per year.
The fashion industry is the third-largest manufacturing sector in the world after the automobile and technology industries. It is valued at approximately US$2.4 billion globally and employs 75 million people directly along the value chain. It is also a greenhouse gas-intensive industry, with estimated emissions ranging between 2 and 8 percent of the global total.
The fashion industry has faced a growing array of sustainability concerns in recent years, from the unsustainable use of natural resources and excessive waste generation to the social implications of outsourcing much of its production and production to the developing world.
A growing number of consumers are demanding greater transparency about where and how their clothes and shoes are produced and are rethinking their purchasing patterns to make more informed and sustainable choices. Investors are also warier of these concerns. The McKinsey report on State of Fashion 2020, released in November 2019, predicted slower growth in 2020 compared to 2019 due to uncertain global dynamics, increasing pressure on companies to adopt more digital business models and the need.
Therefore, an industry-wide approach embodied by the Charter principles and objectives can serve as a powerful signal to drive collective climate action along the value chain for fashion and help companies achieve positive business outcomes that result.
More and more fashion industry players have adapted to sustainability trends and are working towards more sustainable forms of production and are looking for ways to reduce emissions both in their direct operations and in their value chains. To collectively address sustainability issues and address the unique challenges facing the fashion industry, the Sustainable Clothing Coalition has been supporting the industry's low carbon efforts in recent years, such as the Textile Exchange and the Fashion Pact. These coalitions can work on broader solutions or focus on zero on specific issues, such as leading the industry to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals (ZDHC Roadmap to Zero).
Beyond consumer and investor pressure, the fashion industry itself is not insulated from the effects of climate change. Regulatory risks (e.g. carbon caps and taxes) and physical risks (e.g. storms, droughts, water shortages, and extreme temperatures) are likely to negatively impact the production (and price) of raw materials such as cotton, affecting business continuity in the near future, and logistics and employee health and safety. different business areas. Industry involvement in tackling socio-environmental challenges such as climate change also offers opportunities, from promoting innovation in the industry and repositioning the brand, to cost savings from reducing energy consumption and waste.
The idiosyncrasies of the clothing industry mean that fashion brands typically have long global supply chains over which they have limited influence and control, with the largest portion of the industry's climate footprint. The life cycle of a piece of clothing or footwear includes many stages in the value chain, from raw material extraction (e.g. cotton cultivation), processing (e.g. cotton to yarn) and manufacturing (e.g. dyeing) to the manufacture and/or assembly of the product. As a multi-segmented industry, no single player makes up more than 1 percent of the market, meaning these phases are often performed by different companies and sometimes across geographies. This also means that collaboration and collective action are key to effective and meaningful solutions.
Reducing emissions along the value chain can be achieved through energy efficiency measures, switching to renewable energy sources, opting out of coal, sourcing material alternatives (e.g. less carbon-intensive fibres), and investing in smarter logistics, among other strategies. However, while energy efficiency measures can be implemented directly by brands and supply chain partners and even low cost in the medium and long term, the deployment of renewable energies depends on a more complex set of variables. Depending on the region, coal may be the fuel of choice due to availability and cost, with regulations prohibiting the purchase of power outside the local utility.
On the other hand, apparel production is expected to increase by 2.7 percent per year between today and 2030, meaning that emissions will continue to rise even with cleaner energy sources. Also, an increase in production will add to an already wasteful industry. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, about 12 percent of the fibers produced each year for the clothing industry are already discarded during the manufacturing process, 73 percent go to landfills or are incinerated, and less than 1 percent of products are recycled. Potential solutions include moving to circular economy strategies aimed at extending the life of garments (for example, through material and design selection) and facilitating recycling into new garments. New business models may also include resale, rental and repair services, which lead to different production and consumption patterns.
What is the Fashion Industry Convention for Climate Action?
The Fashion Industry Climate Action Convention is the result of work undertaken by fashion stakeholders in 2018 to identify ways in which the broader textile, apparel and fashion industry can move towards a holistic commitment to climate action.
The work began with the UN Climate Change hosting the "Dialogue on Improving Climate Action in the Fashion Sector", which brought together industry representatives to discuss the impacts of climate change and the Paris Agreement on the industry. These actors recognized that voluntary climate action takes place on a limited scale and that the diverse and dispersed nature of work means that effective action will require multi-stakeholder dialogue and participation among policymakers, brands, and suppliers. Given the importance of the supply chain in fashion's overall climate footprint, they also identified the need for collaborative action to support manufacturers in adapting to net-zero emissions.
Anchoring the initiative within UN Climate Change was deemed crucial to provide an impartial, global forum for necessary discussion on climate impacts and action among various stakeholders from various stages of industry operations, which has been missing so far. It was recommended that UN Climate Change use its unifying power to support the fashion industry in the planning and implementation of climate action aimed at aligning the industry with the goals of the Paris Agreement, as well as facilitating engagement between the industry, policymakers and neighboring sectors. like the financial community. Reuniting in September to finalize recommendations, which were brought together through a multi-stakeholder iterative process throughout the year, the group formed the Fashion Industry Climate Action Convention.
The charter recognizes the need to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. As a major global player, the fashion industry stands ready to play an active role in contributing to this goal by embracing deeper, more systematic change and growing low-carbon solutions to reduce emissions.
The Declaration further states that there are opportunities to reduce emissions along the global value chain, regardless of size and geography, and that these opportunities are consistent with expanding economic opportunities, using resources more efficiently, increasing economic competitiveness and innovation, among other things.
The overall aim and mission of the charter is to lead the fashion industry to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest, in line with keeping global warming below 1.5 °C. The signatories commit to a series of actions on climate change:
support the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels;
Commit to total greenhouse gas emission reductions of up to 30 percent in scopes 1, 2, and 3 of the GHG Protocol Institutional Standard 15 by 2030, on a basis no earlier than 2015;
Commitment to analyze and identify a decarbonization pathway for the fashion industry, leveraging methodologies from the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi);
Measure, monitor, and publicly disclose greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with standards and best measurement and transparency practices;
Collaborate with experts, businesses, investors, environmental advocates, and other stakeholders to develop and implement a decarbonization strategy for the fashion industry, including developing a work program and tools to achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets;
Commit to prioritizing materials with low climate impact without negatively impacting other sustainability aspects;
Committed to constantly pursuing energy efficiency measures and renewable energy in the value chain;
Commitment not to install new coal-fired boilers or other coal-fired sources of heat and power generation at Tier 1 and Tier 2 plants as soon as possible and by 2025 at the latest; 16
Supporting the global transition to low-carbon transport by opting for low-carbon logistics;
Support the movement towards circular business models and recognize its positive impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the fashion sector;
Building on changing consumer behavior that reduces environmental impacts and extends the lifespan of products, by establishing a closer dialogue with consumers to raise awareness about greenhouse gas emissions during the use and end-of-life phases of products;
Partner with the financial community and policymakers to catalyze scalable solutions for a low-carbon economy across the industry;
Develop, together with other stakeholders, a strategy with goals and plans to advocate for the development of policies and laws to strengthen climate action in the fashion industry, particularly in supply chains;
Dialogue with governments in key countries to provide renewable energy, energy efficiency and the necessary infrastructure for systematic change beyond the fashion industry;
Communicate a shared vision and understanding through the development of a common strategy and message, including supporting climate action in the fashion industry through an enhanced and trust-building dialogue with relevant stakeholders;
Support the UN Climate Change secretariat in its efforts to manage the progress monitoring and recognition of commitments set out in the Fashion Industry Convention on Climate Action.
Charter members are guided by the following core values:
Ambitious climate action where signatories support the growth of ambition over time and develop innovative solutions to climate challenges in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement;
With the understanding that cooperation, cooperation, and communication should be built in a culture of inclusivity, empathy, mutual respect, and meaningful cooperation;
Adhering to the Sustainable Development Goals, recognizing that all participating companies have opportunities to take action that will result in a measurable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to the broader Sustainable Development Goals;
Transparency and accountability where members work with integrity, ownership, and transparency and maintain quality and relevance in their work, negotiations, and thought leadership;
With respect for human rights, those who accede to this Charter are expected to accept the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and applicable United Nations statutes and conventions.
The purpose of the Working Group is to create a roadmap in line with the Charter principles:
1 (to support the aims of the Paris Agreement);
2 (30 percent discount commitment on all 3 coverages);
3 (analyze and identify decarbonization path for industry based on SBTi targets); and
4 (measuring, monitoring and publicly reporting emissions).
For this, the following scope of work was agreed upon:
Define a strategy and approach to analyze and identify a concrete decarbonization pathway aligned with science-based emission reduction targets;
Mapping and recruiting leading organizations and actors who can help define the strategy;
Develop a playbook for brands, retailers, and suppliers;
Define agreed methodologies for calculating and reporting Scope 3 GHG emissions;
Set criteria for how emission reductions will be evaluated and defined for consistency of implementation;
Identify systems for assessing/monitoring carbon reductions in raw materials, production, use phase, and the like;
Define reporting methodology and frequency guidelines;
Identify ways to account for activities such as docking and offsetting;
Define a monitoring and recognition process;
Define a system for rewarding companies that set and achieve more ambitious climate targets.
The aim of this Working Group is to establish a roadmap in line with Charter principle 6 (commit to prioritizing materials with low climate impact without adversely affecting other sustainability aspects). With the understanding that company-specific targets will be self-determined, the following scope of work has been agreed upon:
To map the different materials used in industry;
Mapping and recruiting leading organizations and actors to set the roadmap;
Establishing an approach to support best practice efforts;
Exploring tools to measure positive impacts such as carbon capture and sequestration;
To encourage the taking and systematization of more concrete and more ambitious goals;
Exploring the entire life cycle of fibers to provide a holistic perspective.
Manufacturing and Energy
The purpose of the Low-Carbon Production Working Group is to create a roadmap in line with the Charter principles: 7 (continually pursue energy efficiency measures and renewable energy in the value chain) and 8 (commitment not to install new coal-fired boilers or other sources) coal-fired heat and electricity production). The following scope of work was agreed upon:
Mapping existing energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy programs in priority manufacturing countries;
Define a roadmap for energy efficiency and renewable energy scalability, including how, where and when specific actions will be taken;
Prepare a strong intent signal and relevant messages throughout the value chain;
Identify major manufacturing countries and regions to prioritize activities;
Develop a strategy to address the legal limitations existing in countries with limited capacity for the transition to cleaner energy;
Developing an easy access strategy for signatories to participate in these existing initiatives;
Seeking the help of local actors to scale existing initiatives beyond suppliers to international brands;
Exploring practical ways brands can work together to support producers where governments prioritize renewable energy;
As part of the roadmap, identifying opportunities to increase energy efficiency and expand renewable energy, including competitive proposals/specific targets in line with decarbonization, all of which will be used and strengthened by the Policy Engagement Working Group.
The aim of the group is to establish a roadmap in line with the Charter principles: 13 (developing a strategy with targets and plans to advocate for the development of policy and legislation to strengthen climate action in the fashion industry, particularly in supply chains) and 14 (renewable energy for systemic change beyond the fashion industry, Dialogue with governments in key countries to ensure energy efficiency and necessary infrastructure). This group will work to devise a strategy to involve governments at various levels to advance climate action, for example by advocating for renewable energy. For this, the following scope of work was agreed upon:
Selection of target countries (mainly major producing countries);
Mapping existing initiatives and seeking dialogue to explore how existing initiatives can be used and complemented;
liaising with government agencies dealing with climate policy;
Designing an action plan with specific targets and timelines to advocate for policy support for energy efficiency and renewable energy implementation in key markets;
Developing contractual messaging (considering different political contexts).
The purpose of the Financial Instruments Working Group is to establish a roadmap for financing options to support climate action in line with the Charter principles: 5 (develop and implement a decarbonisation strategy in partnership with experts, businesses, investors, environmental advocates and other stakeholders in the fashion industry) and 12 ( Partner with the financial community and policymakers to catalyze scalable solutions for a low-carbon economy across the industry).
With the understanding that various financial support mechanisms and partnerships with a wide range of financial stakeholders will be crucial to achieving the vision of climate neutrality in fashion, the following scope of work was agreed upon:
Designing, among other things, a strategy to identify scalable solutions by providing effective communication, information sharing and joint activities with Policy Engagement and Manufacturing/Energy working groups;
Mapping relevant stakeholders, tools and scalable financial solutions;
Identifying and addressing existing barriers (acting with the Policy Working Group to find synergies);
Identify ways to facilitate links between fashion stakeholders and implementing programs and agencies beyond the fashion industry;
To create a global forum where fashion stakeholders, the financial community and policy makers can collaborate on climate action.
Low Carbon Logistics
The purpose of the Logistics Working Group was to create a roadmap in line with Charter principle 9 (supporting the global transition to low carbon transport by prioritizing low carbon logistics). The following scope of work was agreed upon:
Mapping options and opportunities for fashion brands to prioritize low-carbon logistics;
Identifying actions that can help promote and increase the use of low-carbon logistics;
To propose an action plan for the fashion industry.
Brand, Retailer Owned or Operated Emissions
The purpose of this Working Group is to contribute to Charter principle 2 by focusing on the owned or operated emissions of brands and retailers (commit to 30 percent emissions reductions in all 3 contexts by 2030 on a no earlier basis). For this, the following scope of work was agreed upon:
Developing guidance for effective and relevant greenhouse gas reduction strategies for brands and retailers;
Mapping current energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy programs for brands and retailers in different geographies;
Seeking dialogue and alignment with existing initiatives to explore how they can be leveraged and complemented;
Developing a collection of best practices from leading brands and retailers;
Provide guidance for renewable energy supply practices for brands and retailers in key markets;
Coordinate with other Charter Working Groups to create synergies and avoid conflicts.
The Charter's specific commitment is to "measure, monitor and publicly report greenhouse gas emissions consistent with standards and best measurement and transparency practices".
During the 2020 reporting cycle, 90 companies that signed the Charter were asked to report through the CDP. Meanwhile, that number has grown and more companies have been added to the CDP for the upcoming 2021 reporting cycle.
As a result, industry players transitioning to more sustainable and low-carbon production and consumption models have to have more durable jobs both in the near and long term. The Charter will continue to help fashion stakeholders advance these goals by calling on a wide range of stakeholders to define action roadmaps, enable knowledge sharing and create learning platforms.