The GFA Monitor: Fashion Industry Progress Check

Find out more about The GFA Monitor 2023.

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The GFA Monitor 2023 is a culmination of collaboration and expertise, drawing knowledge from over 25 industry organisations and data insights from more than 900 stakeholders across 90 countries who participated in the Fashion Industry Target Consultation 2022/23. The report serves as a guide, offering clear actions and best practices to address key sustainability priorities laid out in the Fashion CEO Agenda. GFA’s data partner; Worldly supported the analysis of Fashion Industry Target Consultation 2023 data to contextualise industry progress and start developing baselines across a holistic set of performance indicators.

 

Below we dive into some of the insights from The GFA Monitor 2023.

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Respectful & Secure Work Environments

The fashion industry has a responsibility to uphold the respect of universal human rights for all people employed along the value chain.

The past year has seen progress in buyers’ purchasing practices and in the adoption of verified converged assessments as well as a reduction of non-compliance in the areas of occupational health and safety, working hours and recruitment. In 2023, Pakistan joined Bangladesh in adopting the International Safety Accord’s legally binding agreement that promotes workplace safety through safety inspections, in Bangladesh alone, the Accord has conducted more than 40,000 safety inspections with 93% of identified hazards remediated across 400+ factories, creating safer working environments for over 2 million garment workers.

Our industry consultation showed that encouragingly, 82% of producers claim to have set targets to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies by 2040, signalling a collective commitment to driving progress in this area.

Yet, a myriad of crises that the industry is facing from geo-political conflict to the effects of climate change have heightened the risk of workers being exposed to unsafe working conditions, excessive overtime, precarious contractual arrangements, and workplace violence and harassment. Our consultation also revealed that, whilst 90% of producers reported having set targets on worker access to effective grievance mechanisms, only 60% are currently reporting progress.

Better Wage Systems

Effective systems to enable brands and producers to pay all workers fair compensation and a living wage are essential to ensuring workers can live in dignity and support their families.

Increasingly, collaborations between brands and NGOs and multistakeholder initiatives (MSIs) are working with value chain partners to enable fair compensation and living wages to be paid, supported by frameworks, data collection, and costing methodologies. The first brands are now publishing wage data as part of their annual sustainability reporting. Yet several factors, not least the current global economic crisis and heightened price competition at supplier level, have resulted in a widening wage gap between average minimum and living wage payments across key production countries.

The Fashion Industry Target Consultation showed that while 67% of producers have set targets to ensure workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements with wages above local legal requirements by 2040, there is a notable gap in reporting progress among brands, with only 33% reporting target setting. Furthermore, addressing the gender pay gap remains a challenge, with brands significantly lagging behind in measuring and reporting progress in this area – 0% of brands reported that they are already measuring and/or reporting progress on the gender pay gap across the textile value chain.

Resource Stewardship

To achieve vital decarbonisation targets and protect our environment and its inhabitants for generations to come, the fashion industry must adopt a holistic stewardship approach in which value creation is decoupled from finite natural resources.

Notable efforts have been made this year by brands, NGOs, and MSIs to support value chain interventions to collectively identify, fund, and scale proven solutions in other areas including renewable energy uptake, water stewardship, land restoration, and sustainable chemical management.

Encouragingly, 81% of Fashion Industry Target Consultation respondents indicated having set targets to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 with 93% of brands and 89% of producers already measuring progress. Commitment levels are indeed highest with respect to decarbonising the fashion value chain, yet current trajectories will see the industry far exceeding critical limits aligned with science. Moreover, only 36% of brand respondents have reported that they have set targets towards the elimination of microfibre pollution across the textile value chain by 2025, almost half that of producers (63%).

2023 marked the long-awaited initial release of Science-Based Targets for Nature methods for land and freshwater, equipping companies with tools to assess their impacts on nature and set targets in a consistent manner. Further commitments are shortly expected following the release of these targets.

Smart Material Choices

In order to reduce the industry’s footprint from fibre and raw material production, responsible sourcing of preferred fibre and raw materials will be necessary, ensuring that materials consistently deliver reduced impact and increased benefits for climate, nature, and people.

The market share of preferred fibres is increasing, with a significant percentage of the fashion industry’s leaders setting targets to produce and source all priority materials from preferred sources and from sources with a low climate impact. Innovation is also being scaled in alternative next-generation materials. Yet the pace of change is not fast enough, with significant investment still needed to scale up proven textile-to-textile recycling infrastructure for all fibres, plus incentives for producers to transition to regenerative farming practices. 

The GFA Monitor highlights that the majority (89%) of respondents have set targets to source materials from preferred and low-climate-impact sources by 2040, with many already measuring and reporting progress in this area (80%). Additionally, there is a growing commitment to sourcing polyester from recycled feedstocks.

The EU Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation proposal, will further compel companies to design products with lower environmental impact, and include compulsory requirements on the share of recycled content.

Circular Systems

To decouple economic development from consumption of finite resources, the fashion industry must ensure a just transition towards a circular economy in which waste and pollution are eliminated, products and materials are circulated, and nature is regenerated.

While the resale market continues to expand, significant value presented by the adoption of circular business models – such as rental and remaking – remains untapped. Target-setting in this field remains fragmented with many targets self-defined, lacking comparability with peers and marked by inconsistent ambition levels. Moreover, those adopting circular models often overlook the impact on job quality and availability.

Commitment to the adoption of circular design principles remains a principal focus for industry actors engaging in the circular economy. Indeed, several collections are now challenging the status quo with new approaches to design. Successful pilots are underway for establishing infrastructure and processes to support scaling textile-to-textile recycling of post-industrial and post-use textile waste.

Encouraging results gathered through The Fashion Industry Target Consultation further implied industry commitment to addressing overproduction with 78% of brands and 77% producers claiming to have set targets to eliminate overproduction across the textile value chain. While progress is evident, there are areas where strategic action is lacking. Notably, fewer brands (46%) have set targets to eliminate messages encouraging unnecessary consumption, highlighting the need for greater emphasis on consumer behaviour change.

Unlocking the Next Level

 

As we reflect on the insights highlighted in The GFA Monitor 2023, it is clear that progress towards a net-positive fashion industry is underway. However, this progress must be accelerated and amplified through collective action and continued commitment from all stakeholders across the value chain. By harnessing the guidance and best practices outlined in the report, fashion leaders can drive meaningful change and pave the way for a more sustainable future.

We are calling on brands, retailers, NGOs, producers and manufacturers, land stewards, Indigenous communities, data providers, policy makers, academia, certification bodies, and more from across fashion’s value chain to submit their feedback to the second edition of the Fashion Industry Target Consultation(FITC) by 25 March 2024. Share your feedback here to help shape the trajectory of the fashion industry and upcoming GFA publications, such as the next GFA Monitor.

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