The GFA Monitor 2023
Progression to a Net Positive Fashion industry
In an era of unfolding polycrises, I press for the fashion industry to pioneer uncharted routes, embracing each obstacle as an opportunity in pursuit of securing the health and enduring vitality of both humanity and our planet. Backed by the insights imparted by the industry’s foremost experts, we at GFA stand with you in shaping this holistic and transformative journey. The purpose of this report, indeed our very raison d’être as GFA, is to serve as a convenor for the industry and your steadfast companion on this voyage of change.
Today, I wholeheartedly recognise the severity of the relentless global crises we face: from rising geo-political conflict and natural disasters to the disruptive effects of climate change. Our global economy finds itself navigating uncharted waters. It is entering a new age of heightened volatility, with fears of an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East coinciding with a war in Ukraine and the lingering repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, as manifested in inflation, rising energy and material costs, declining sales and labour market challenges. Not least, the threat of climate change looms large, particularly for developing countries already contending with substantial debt burdens. Financial pressures are leaving corporations grappling with the dual mandate of maximising profits while actively pursuing sustainability, all the while negotiating the pitfalls of increased scrutiny by regulators and consumers wary of greenwashing. Many companies are now hesitant to outwardly communicate their sustainability efforts, fearing backlash.
New and upcoming sector regulations and global ESG requirements are also increasing pressure in an endeavour to hold the industry to greater account for its impacts. In early 2023, the EU passed the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) under the EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles requiring over 50,0005 qualifying organisations and SMEs, including fashion companies, to report ESG metrics based on defined standards, ultimately reshaping the manufacture, sale and disposal of clothing. This was quickly followed by the EU’s landmark Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), which marks an inflection point towards a more aggressive regulatory approach to corporate responsibility as regards human rights and environmental violations in the supply chain.
The timeframe for averting the worst climate impacts is rapidly narrowing. Solutions must be deployed and put into action fast. Yet, true success lies not only in safeguarding our planet but also in nurturing the well-being and livelihoods of all its people and inhabitants through this essential transformation. Currently, significant gaps persist between ambition and concrete action in addressing social and environmental priorities. When it comes to the social agenda, recent progress has been measured in buyers’ purchasing practices, the adoption of converged assessments and a reduction in non-compliance in the area of occupational health and safety. Yet several factors, not least the current global economic crisis and heightened price competition at supplier level, have widened the wage gap between average minimum and living wage payments across key production countries.
On the climate front, IPCC’s latest report gave a stark final warning to the world to limit global temperature increases in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement and transition to ‘net-zero’ or ‘near-zero’ emissions. Unless significant changes are made to the way we source and consume energy, especially in production regions, the industry will fall short of the decarbonisation targets necessary to align with the 1.5°C pathway. In parallel, to meet climate goals, economic development needs to be decoupled from consumption of finite resources. We need to step away from current linear pathways and move towards more circular systems that keep materials and products in use for longer and offer fairly compensated, dignified, inclusive employment opportunities for workers throughout the fashion value chain. Where new fibres or raw materials are required, they should be responsibly sourced from preferred feedstocks that ensure consistently reduced impacts and deliver increased benefits for climate, nature and people relative to their conventional equivalents.9 The GFA Monitor shows that we have the solutions to achieve our goals for a more sustainable, resilient and just world.
With fast-approaching deadlines to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and global climate targets, there is an urgent need for all sector actors including brands, retailers, manufacturers as well as other key stakeholders – among them consumers, citizens, NGOs, innovators, policymakers and investors – to take holistic and measurable action towards an inclusive and equitable sector transformation. I acknowledge that each company will take its own unique approach to tackling its priority areas for action, guided by their specific materiality assessments, baselines, trade-offs and interpretations and will double down on those topics of greatest relevance for their operations.
By choosing to launch our second GFA Monitor at COP28, we aspire to take stock of the progress we have been able to measure on fashion industry’s journey towards net positive, raise the importance of the fashion industry’s sustainable transformation on the world’s climate agenda, and present a clear pathway forward with proven solutions, credible resources and industry best practices.
Every actor has a pivotal role to play and has responsibility for shaping the future. I appreciate that current challenges mean you must be bolder than ever to ensure sustainability is prioritised. With purpose-driven leadership, I write to you with optimism and faith, that progress shall not waver. Encouraging advancements prove the industry’s commitment to revolutionise the garment sector. Wherever you are on your sustainability journey, may this report empower you with the tools to mobilise action, measure change, and accelerate progress toward a net positive fashion sector.
I urge you all to maximise this opportunity and move forward with grace, determination, and persistence.
CEO, Global Fashion Agenda