The Future of Fashion After COP26
Fast fashion has come under considerable scrutiny in recent years — thanks to greater media attention, fashion initiatives and the rise of the sustainability movement. We’ve witnessed countless high street brands race to release eco-conscious lines and pledge their commitment to sustainability.
But is this enough? The stats don’t look too convincing. According to a 2020 report by McKinsey & Company, “under its current trajectory, the fashion industry will miss the 1.5-degree pathway [set out by the Paris Agreement to limit global warming] by 50%.”
It’s clear there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done within the fashion industry. So what’s being done to change it? In this post, we’ll discuss the latest climate summit, COP26, and its impact on the fashion industry’s future. As well as, the fashion brands committed to positive change and the targets outlined by the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.
So, What is COP26?
(Image Source: COP26 UK)
Every year the UN hosts the United Nations Climate Change Conference — AKA the Conference of Parties (COP). And this year marked the summit’s 26th event, hence, COP26. From November 1st to November 12th, world leaders from around 200 countries met in Glasgow to commit to urgent climate action.
Why is Fashion an Environmental Issue?
Behind the pretty clothes and runway shows, there hides a dark side to the fashion industry, one rife with environmental and social abuses. Documentaries such as The True Cost of Fashion and Stacey Dooley Investigates: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, reveal just how devastating the industry is on our planet. From polluted waterways and toxic chemical waste to landfills filled with last season’s trends.
But despite fashion’s significant role in the looming climate crisis, the majority of major fashion brands are failing to disclose key environmental information, without which we cannot measure the full extent of their impact on the planet. According to Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index, the top 250 global fashion brands achieve an overall average score of just 23%. Of these brands, only 30% have published a time-bound commitment on decarbonisation — and even fewer (18%) published data on energy reduction.
The facts speak for themself. Fast fashion is not only contributing to climate change — but accelerating it. And relying on major fashion brands to volunteer information about their environmental impact and sustainability efforts isn’t working. If we’re going to protect the planet, we must demand a change in policies that makes sure the fashion industry is held accountable.
The Fashion Industry’s Efforts at COP26
So, what is the fashion industry doing to clean up its act? Back in 2018, with the support of UN Climate Change, the fashion industry and key stakeholders created the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, which identified ways in which the textile and fashion industry can reduce their environmental impact.
The Charter was signed by 130 brands — including the likes of Stella McCartney, Ganni and Burberry — and demonstrated the fashion industry’s willingness to improve...well, at least some of the industry. You can check out the full list of brands that signed here.
And after this year’s COP26, efforts appear to be ramping up. A revised Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action has been released with brands now committing to halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to the previous 30% target). Some of the newest targets outlined by the Charter include:
- For 100% of “priority materials” to be low climate impact by 2030 (i.e. nylon, wool, polyester, man-made cellulosic fibres, cotton, leather)
- To phase out coal from the supply chain by 2030
- To source 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030
Final Thoughts on The Future of Fashion
“Future of Fashion: An innovation conversation with Stella McCartney” exhibition at COP26 (Image Source: Stella McCartney)
The fashion industry’s increased efforts come at a crucial time for climate action — a time the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report referred to as a “code red” for humanity”. And while it's great to see the industry taking a seat at the ‘environmental’ table, will their actions be enough? Will the new commitments put forward by the Fashion Charter mark a turning point for the industry? Or simply a list of unfulfilled targets? Only time will tell.
What are your thoughts? Does this signal a greener future for the fashion industry?