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Interview: Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, UN global climate outreach officer

Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action – kick-start for a greener fashion future

Under the auspices of the United Nations, in 2018 stakeholders in the fashion industry drafted the “Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action”, which defines the climate protection measures for the apparel sector and aims to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu describes the content of the Charter and reports on its progress and challenges.

January 2019

Ms Xhaferi-Salihu, the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action has been launched. How many signatories do you have so far? What are they aiming for?
The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action has got 45 signatories and more are in the pipeline. Companies are committed to a reduction of 30% of their GHG emissions across the value chain by 2030 and in the meantime to set a decarbonization pathway in line with science-based targets. The objective of the charter is to provide a direction of travel for the fashion industry in terms of its climate agenda and to get different actors to rally behind the vision contained in the charter. This is an industry-wide approach, with a clear purpose and goals that will hopefully help ensure that the existing dialogue between stakeholders across the value chain is converted into concrete action and positive outcomes. The UN will facilitate the creation of this global forum where these actors will work jointly to address their climate impact and pave the way towards climate neutrality by 2050. Brands and companies will need to implement these reduction measures, report on them and increase ambition over time, while supporting organizations will help according to their mandates to foster ambition and catalyse further action.

How do they want to achieve that?
Six working groups have been established to define a roadmap for some of the key principles enshrined in the charter such as decarbonization, low impact materials, clean manufacturing, engagement with governments in key markets and so on.  A lot of knowledge and best practices will be brought into these working groups, but we know that many questions are still unsolved. The working groups will identify existing tools and resources as well as gaps and see how those can be addressed, what resources will need to be leveraged and scaled up, who needs to be brought into the conversation and how we can create stronger linkages with policy in key regions. They will also explore the role of non-conventional actors such as farmers, sub-suppliers and finance institutions, who will also be part of the working groups. We know that to achieve and enhance the principles of the Charter, we will need a significant level of cooperation from peers, supply chain partners, governments etc. across the board

What are the biggest challenges for the industry to reduce emissions?
I think challenges to climate action are not exclusive to the fashion industry. A lot of companies don’t feel they can set ambitious targets in the absence of a strategy to get there. Fashion stakeholders recognize that current solutions and business models will not be sufficient to deliver on the current climate agenda and that there is a need for deeper, more systemic change. This recognition will need to be backed by concrete actions. The industry is characterized by the diverse and dispersed nature of the business: from raw materials and manufacturing to logistics and consumers, everything is shared. While unilateral actions by a handful of brands are a good signal of intent, they are not sufficient to move the industry towards transformation and it is clear that concerted efforts across the supply chain are critical to success. The greatest impact lies in the supply chain, which will require a lot of efforts by all actors. They must address the lack of necessary legislation to facilitate action, the lack of transparency in the different tiers of the industry’s value chain, different levels of knowledge and capacity, etc. All of these  issues will need to be addressed in the working groups. So, fundamentally, to turn these existing challenges into opportunities we need to take a value chain approach, and this is what the charter is trying to bring to the table. No company in the industry is big enough to tackle these challenges alone and consistency of action, ambition and innovation is required by each and every one to fulfil the vision outlined in the charter.

How big is the impact of the fashion industry in comparison to other industries?

There is no industry-wide consensus on what the greenhouse gas emissions for the fashion industry are, but it is certain that they will be more significant in the coming years. They include, but are not limited to, emissions generated through textile manufacture, processing and through the transport, use and disposal of finished products. Current analysis puts its impact anywhere between 2% to 8% of global emissions. Regardless of where the fashion industry stands compared to other sectors, it is crucial that every industry plays its part in reducing its climate impact if we are to stand any chance of staying well below the ceiling of 20C. While addressing its own emissions and working towards systemic change, the fashion industry has also got the power to influence other sectors by using its purchasing power to demand low carbon solutions in agriculture, manufacturing, logistics etc. It is also uniquely positioned to raise awareness amongst consumers who as end users also have a critical role to play in pushing the industry towards a zero-carbon future.

#Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu #Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action #United Nations #climate change

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