As people have become increasingly aware of how our lifestyles damage the environment, the devastating impact of the fashion industry on our planet has become more widely known. 73% of our clothes go to a landfill or an incinerator when they are thrown away, despite the potential recyclability of these fabrics. Fashion uses up huge amounts of water, both in the growth of raw materials like cotton as well as in the manufacturing of clothes. On top of this, according to the UN, the fashion industry contributes 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions, using more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined.
It is undeniable that we need to urgently change the fashion industry. In light of this, a new ‘Fashion Pact’ was announced at the G7 summit this August. The pact aims to improve the fashion industry by setting targets on three fronts – Climate, Biodiversity and Ocean. The Climate commitment includes measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon offsetting schemes and renewable energy use. The Biodiversity commitment focuses on ways to protect ecosystems, by promoting wildlife-friendly agriculture for growing clothing materials. The elimination of the use of single-use plastics and the reduction of water pollution to protect our seas are the main commitments in the Ocean section. The pact also suggests joint initiatives between companies, such as agreeing to transparency schemes and supporting technological innovation.
The pact aims to sign up 20% of the fashion industry and at the moment 32 companies, owning about 150 brands in total, have signed it. These include the likes of H&M, Zara and Nike as well as more ‘up-market’ brands like Chanel and Giorgio Armani.
While this may seem like a leap forward in reducing the environmental impact of fashion, it remains to be seen whether this will make any difference. Several commitments already exist in the global fashion industry, such as the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Change and the Circular Fashion System Commitment. Given that many of the brands signing on to the G7 Fashion Pact have already agreed to these existing standards, it is not clear what real difference this pact will make, especially as it is not legally binding and clearly states that the goals it includes are only suggestions for the companies. One could argue that these companies would have already implemented their previous commitments if they actually cared about the environment… Consumer awareness of the importance of sustainable fashion has increased massively since the signing of the other deals, so these companies might just be trying to persuade consumers that they are environmentally friendly by signing the Fashion Pact, rather than actually planning on implementing it.
In defence of the G7 Fashion pact, it is one of the only fashion industry agreements that focuses on the promotion of biodiversity. However, disappointedly the commitments in this section are vaguely worded and have no numerical targets or time limits for actions to be taken. The pact nevertheless has slightly more focus on collaboration between companies than in previous agreements, which could potentially help inspire more action. However, some sections of the agreement, especially those relating to collaboration, are merely vague guidelines, and do not add much value on top of collaboration suggestions in other agreements.
Overall, the Fashion Pact is underwhelming and unlikely to create change. Even in the best case scenario, if 20% of the industry actually implemented its suggestions, the other 80% may not do anything.This is not enough to stop climate change. What is more likely to actually make a difference is consumers voting with their wallets to force companies to change, and our governments creating laws targeting the pollution created by fashion companies. Without these actions, the Fashion Pact’s commitments are unlikely to be upheld.
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