It’s a billion dollar industry that is fast having a devastating impact on our environment. The second most polluting industry after oil, the fashion business directly contributes to the emission of greenhouse gasses that are causing climate change. It’s estimate a garbage truck’s worth of clothing is burnt or sent to landfill every second and a vast 2700 litres of water is needed to process a single t-shirt,The statistics are shocking to say the least but at last, it seems the industry’s biggest players are uniting and standing up for change. A fashion industry charter for change was launched at this year’s COP24, theUnited Nations climate change conference in Poland. 

Comprised of 16 principles and targets, the companies involved in the charter have agreed to reduce their aggregate greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 and aim to achieve zero emissions by 2050. Low-carbon transportation suppliers and climate-friendly materials have also been prioritised. Companies involved include Burberry, Adidas, Puma, Gap Inc and H&M Group, but the driving force and one of the founding signatories is Stella McCartney, already a leading name in sustainable fashion. 

‘There are millions of limitations from a design and creative point of view. There are millions of limitations from a sourcing and manufacturing point of view. But for me, all of those challenges are part of being a designer and part of being a businesswoman. It’s a no-brainer but there has to be a collective conversation. I think that’s what’s so powerful and exciting and promising about COP24’ - Stella McCartney.

Specific goals announced at the conference include phasing out coal-fired boilers and exploring circular business models and working groups have been created to help signatories ensure these commitments become a reality. One signatory, Burberry, were at the centre of a recent global scandal when it was revealed unsold goods were burned to avoid discount, which would ultimately harm their luxurious brand image. It seems that that the public outcry has prompted a complete U-turn. 

‘While we have committed to becoming a carbon neutral in our own operations, achieving a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the entire global fashion industry by 2030 will require innovation and collaboration’ - Marco Gobbetti, CEO of Burberry.

For an industry driven by innovation, this charter has been slow to come to fruition. While it marks a significant change in outlook for a global industry, only time will tell if the fashion industry will do what is really needed to make a marked impact.

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