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CEO Agenda 2019 launches at Davos, urges fashion industry to address climate change?

Sustainable organisation Global Fashion Agenda has released the second edition of its CEO Agenda at Davos this week, presenting the eight sustainability priorities every fashion CEO needs to address in order to become more sustainable – including climate change. Presented at Davos House during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, the report was developed in collaboration with leading players in the fashion sustainability field, including brands such as Bestseller, H&M Group, Kering and Target.

Sustainability is no longer a trend, but a business imperative, says the Agenda. With that sense of urgency, the report has been updated from 2018 to add climate change as one of its core priorities, echoing what other sustainability experts have been saying at major conferences over the past few months.

“Climate change is an unprecedented threat to people and the planet. We only have 11 years to rectify the catastrophic impact we’ve had on our planet or we’ll miss the objective of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius,” said Eva Kruse, CEO and president of the Global Fashion Agenda. “We know that change is not easy, but overall progress is too slow, and we simply can’t afford to lose another year. The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest and most powerful industries. Therefore, we need to take leadership to secure the future of our industry – and our planet.”

The report further explains that although fashion has increasingly been working on pressing issues such as chemical usage and circularity, it must also address the impact on climate change more proactively. At present, new research by UNFCCC states that total greenhouse gas emissions from textile production amount to 1.2bn tonnes annually, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

The updated Agenda now highlights four core priorities for immediate implementation, with climate change being the new addition. This includes: supply chain traceability; efficient use of water, energy and chemicals; respectful and secure work environments; and lastly, combating climate change. The other four transformational priorities for fundamental change remain the same from 2018, as follows: sustainable material mix; circular fashion system; promotion of better wage systems; and fourth industrial revolution.

The report also directly speaks to fashion leaders and asks them to further engage in the topic of conversation in light with how slow progress has been: at present, only 50% of the industry has taken any action on sustainability. “As fashion leaders you’re in a unique position to turn things around, holding the power to make sustainability an integral part of your business strategy, and thus of the fashion industry as a whole,” reads the report.

The organization has also announced ASOS, Nike and PVH Corp. as new Strategic Partners who will be working with the Global Fashion Agenda on providing expert opinions to help shape the agenda and play a role in developing though leadership content. 

“We believe that the world needs to urgently work towards creating a sustainable future – one where everyone thrives on a healthy planet and a level-playing field,” adds Nike CEO Mark Parker. “We are committed to innovating our way into that future, both within Nike and in partnership with others.”

The CEO Agenda 2019 is available to read online.

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Editor's pick sustainability

Copenhagen Fashion Summit: Sustainability has a leadership problem, not a technology one

David Roberts of Singularity University at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit
David Roberts of Singularity University at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit

“Having technology, and having leadership that adopts it, are two very different things,” David Roberts, thought leader and distinguished faculty member at Singular University, said at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in Denmark this week.

Keynoting the second day of an event dedicated to sustainability, he urged the audience to recognize just how much innovation is out there – from new materials to recycling tech. “This isn’t a technology problem, it’s a leadership one,” he explained.

Arguably, there is still big work to get such tech to the sort of scale the industry needs, but the wider challenge of uptake in order to make that possible as well as viable, is key.

Roberts pushed for the leaders in the room to therefore be the ones that stand up and try to make a difference – or to kickstart the industry into doing so. He referenced a quote from Robert F. Kennedy to illustrate it: “Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a wave that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

The notion of the summit is indeed to inspire those sort of ripples to start taking place from individual sources, but this year’s underlying theme was also about collaboration. Speakers from Dame Ellen MacArthur to Eric Sprunk, COO of Nike, pushed for the industry to truly start working together.

“When it comes to igniting sustainable innovation, we believe in the power of collaboration. To design the future, we must do it together,” said Sprunk.

Complementing that notion is the CEO Agenda, a recently published list of seven priorities from the Global Fashion Agenda, the organization behind the summit.

Three of those priorities – supply chain traceability, efficient use of water, energy and chemicals, and respectful and secure work environments, can be implemented right away, Morten Lehmann, CSO of the Global Fashion Agenda, said on stage. But the other four – sustainable material mix, closed loop fashion system, promotion of better wage systems and the fourth industrial revolution – are focused more on the future. “They are transformational. You need to be aware of them, but no company can act on these alone. It needs to be the industry together.”

Added Sprunk: “This event is a catalyst for action for all of us. No single person, company or government will be able to do it alone… Just as in the design process, the best ideas come from a mash up of perspectives, talents and capabilities.”

MacArthur further pushed for regulation to drive this forward: “Regulation is important, but a common vision for that regulation is critical. We need collaboration around a vision so that everyone is working in the same direction, and only through that will this be possible.”