Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action

Updated: 6 days ago

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