Fashion’s role at COP27: A unanimous call for holistic targets, investment and collective action

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Monday 14 November, Sharm El Sheikh: Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) – the non-profit organisation that fosters industry collaboration on sustainability in fashion to accelerate impact – worked to place fashion on the COP27 agenda during the first week of the conference in Sharm El Sheikh. GFA presented three insightful events that brought together a range of industry experts to address critical industry topics including: the route of travel for the fashion industry to become net positive, the cross-sectoral alliances to decarbonise the fashion value chain and the actions needed to foster circular systems.


Across the sessions, GFA expressed the immense impact of fashion and advocated that it needs to have prominence within the overall climate agenda. It emphasised that factors such as respectful and secure work environments, living wages and circular systems need to be brought into the climate change conversation to take a holistic approach towards a net positive industry for people and the planet. To achieve this, the organisation called for accelerated investment, comprehensive targets and ambitious alliances throughout the value chan.


Federica Marchionni, CEO, GFA, said: “It is essential that leaders attending COP27 move beyond words to set clear commitments that are rigorously followed through beyond the conference, leading to implementation of concrete and urgent actions. Policymakers can have a tremendous influence over the future of the fashion industry and should use this moment to set ambitious and transformative parameters, not only on the climate but also considering the intersectionality of sustainability topics from equality and empowerment to living wages and contextual nature targets for instance on fresh water and biodiversity.”


“We first launched our Global Fashion Summit (formerly Copenhagen Fashion Summit) during COP15 in 2009 because fashion was not on the official agenda at the time. Since then, awareness and understanding about the impact of the fashion industry has grown significantly. Through our alliance with UNFCCC and UNEP, we have been championing GFA’s vision of a net positive fashion industry for people and the planet and working to ensure fashion has the prominent place that is deserved in the agenda. Though there is still a long way to go, it is promising to see that there is a strong presence of fashion-focused discussions in this year’s programme.”

Holistic Targets for the Industry

On 8 November, GFA and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a public Fashion Industry Target Consultation to identify and align the industry around a set of holistic sustainability targets. During the online launch event, the organisations called for industry participation in the consultation, initiating a unique, converged effort to set a clear route of travel for the fashion industry to align on not only the 1.5-degree pathway but also pathways to reduce virgin resource use, establish living wages and dignified work for all and protect nature. In addition to identifying milestones, the consultation aims to identify what support different actors across the value chain need to take action to achieve net-positive industry for people and the planet by 2050.


Speakers included: Anant Ahuja, Head of Organizational Development, Shahi Exports, Hendrik Alpen, Head of Sustainability Engagement, H&M Group, Federica Marchionni, CEO, GFA, Elisa Tonda, Chief, Resources and Markets Branch at UNEP, Sophia Yang, Founder & Executive Director of Threading Change and and Luca Mensini, Member of the Committee of the Regions and President of the Province of Lucca, Italy for a conversation.


Read more about the consultation and watch the launch event.


Circular Systems

Linked to the consultation, stakeholders discussed ‘Circular Systems for a Net Positive Fashion Industry’ in an event on 12 November. Participants included Lily Cole, Climate Activist and Advisor to UNECE, Federica Marchionni, CEO, Global Fashion Agenda, Elena Faleschini, Senior Manager Brand Partnerships, ISKO, Miranda Schnitger, Climate Lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Samata Pattinson, CEO of RCDG Global, Holly Syrett, Impact Programmes & Sustainability Director, GFA, and Tarek Alkhoury, Regional Coordinator for Climate Change, Regional Office for West Asia, UNEP.  The event was supported by P4G Partnerships and State of Green Denmark.⁠


Speakers emphasised that:

  • A harmonisation of goals is critical to ensure that fashion industry targets are not set in silos but across the industry.
  • Policy is the foundation for transformative legal action and has the power to accelerate circularity
  • Partnerships are key, not just within the value chain, but with collectives, NGOs, policy makers and other industries
  • Investment in innovation – within for instance fabrics and facilities – can help to create quality and durable products
  • Recycled materials must be incentivised to the degree they can compete with the price of virgin materials


Lily Cole, Climate Activist and Advisor to UNECE: “There is a systemic problem in our economy that is not incentivising circularity and recycling to happen, and where we see policies that would highlight the social and environmental costs, then you’d have a level playing field where recycled materials can actually start to compete.”


Elena Faleschini, Senior Manager Brand Partnerships, ISKO: “At the moment there is still not enough harmonisation between brands and manufacturers. We should make sure that targets are set not only in silos but across the industry.”


Decarbonisation of the value chain

On 11 November, GFA hosted a panel on ‘Alliances for a new era: Decarbonising the fashion value chain.Panelists included: Catherine Chiu, Vice President Corporate Quality & Sustainability Department at Crystal Group International – online participant, Dorte Rye Olsen, Head of Sustainability at BESTSELLER, Nicholas Mazzei, Head of Corporate Citizenship and Environmental Sustainability, Zalando and it was moderated by Thomas Tochtermann, Vice Chairman at Global Fashion Agenda.

Watch the discussion.


Key points raised include:

  • Various finance solutions are needed to accelerate decarbonisation, tailored to the contexts of various geographies, technologies and off-takers
  • Investment should be applied throughout the value chain, and there is a need for both multi-brand partnerships and cross-sectoral partnerships with manufacturers
  • It is important to increase energy efficiency upstream, to reduce energy consumption, alongside investments in renewables
  • Parameters are needed to substantiate, report progress on, and drive accountability on ‘Net Zero’ commitments and claims
  • As well as the need for aligned and controlled criteria for GHG accounting and insetting
  • We have to work in parallel tracks, both individually as companies and collectively


Dorte Rye Olsen, Head of Sustainability at BESTSELLER: “There will not be enough renewable energy for our growth unless we reduce our energy consumption…It’s a two-pronged approach, so insetting and reduction is key.”


Nicholas Mazzei, Head of Corporate Citizenship and Environmental Sustainability, Zalando: “If you want to make long and short-term SBTs and you want to be net zero, there has to be a set rule and policy on how you demonstrate that you’re doing that before you can make the claim that you’re on a net zero journey…I would love to see policy on what constitutes net zero and how you make the claim it’s a target.”


Building on GFA’s partnership with UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC), Federica Marchionni contributed to the COP27 event by UNFCCC’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action: “Fashion Industry on the Race to Zero: Building a better future for the industry, people and planet”. Marchionni joined a panel that asked, ‘Is the fashion eco-system ramping up to support transparency and sector decarbonisation?’ including Amina Razvi, CEO, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Kehua Hu, Sustainability Stewardship director, China National Apparel Council, Syeda Faiza Jamil, Programme Director, Net Zero Pakistan and Claire Bergkamp, COO of Textile Exchange.


Watch the full UNFCCC event.

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