The backdrop of the World Economic Forum 2023

Last week, world leaders, ministers, investors, business leaders, academics, activists and more descended upon Davos to set the tone for the year ahead and consider ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’. With growth slowing in the global economy, climate change and its repercussions on the rise and the ongoing war in Ukraine, the return of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos was situated against an ominous backdrop. Whilst this naturally led to more sobering headlines, Reuters reported that Davos concluded with a cautious optimism surrounding the global economic outlook for 2023.

Short term solutions were certainly prioritised due to the urgent economic crises at hand, so much so that certain leaders didn’t attend in order to focus on these issues at home. However, it was abundantly clear that the climate can no longer be compromised and many at Davos worked to ensure that this remained prominent on the agenda.

The WEF’s risk analysis for 2023 concluded that whilst the cost-of-living crisis is the biggest risk for the coming two years, this is closely followed by extreme weather events. Over the next decade, failure to mitigate climate change is the number one risk.

Ending the “addiction to fossil fuels”

To mark the beginning of Davos, activists Helena Gualinga, Vanessa Nakate, Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer penned a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter to fossil fuel CEOs laying out in blunt terms the fragile state of the world. The letter has since been signed by over 900,000 people including António Guterres and Al Gore. It demands that fossil fuel companies “immediately stop opening any new oil, gas, or coal extraction sites, and stop blocking the clean energy transition we all so urgently need.”

At the event, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN starkly stated: “The battle to keep the 1.5C limit alive will be won or lost in this decade”. Guterres highlighted the urgent need to close the emissions gap by ending the “addiction to fossil fuels”, phasing out coal and supercharging the renewable revolution. This was echoed by many at Davos including the likes of UK Labour Party Leader, Kier Starmer, who criticised new oil investments. Irene Vélez, the minister for mines in Colombia announced: “We have decided not to award new oil and gas exploration contracts, and while that has been very controversial, it’s a clear sign of our commitment in the fight against climate change,”

Addressing inequality

The annual Oxfam report on global inequality was published in conjunction with the start of Davos and outlined that for the first time in 25 years, extreme wealth and extreme poverty have both gone up. Since 2020, the richest 1% have captured nearly two-thirds of new wealth in the world. Despite this, wealth equality and wealth distribution were not a prominent part of the programme.

Guterres reiterated the need to double adaption finance, as promised at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, and for the biggest emitters to unite around a Climate Solidarity Pact in order to keep 1.5 alive. Pakistani climate minister Sherry Rehman pushed for loss and damage funding, another key agreement from COP27.

The Earth Commission revealed that it has scientifically quantified, for the first time, a ‘long-term safe and just corridor for humanity at a global scale’. Soon to be published, the new ‘safe and just Earth System Boundaries’ will outline a set of boundaries, much like the 1.5ºC limit for climate, but for a more extensive set of biophysical domains, all of which are critical for the world economy, social stability and for human wellbeing.

Financing a low carbon economy

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry discussed how to meet the global warming targets of the Paris Agreement: “How do we get there? The lesson I have learned in the last years … is money, money, money, money, money, money, money.”

On day two, WEF launched the new initiative, Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA), which will leverage philanthropic capital to help generate the $3 trillion needed each year from public and private sources to tackle climate change and nature loss.

The landmark U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) permeated dialogues at Davos. The IRA was signed into law in August last year and in part, directs new federal spending toward reducing carbon emissions whilst driving investment in domestic clean energy. It has proven somewhat controversial with worries of global companies being excluded from US markets and investment opportunities.

In a pivotal moment for the EU, Ursula von der Leyden, President of the European Commission announced that the ‘Green Deal Industrial Plan’ is in development with the ambition to “make Europe the home of cleantech and industrial innovation on the road to net-zero.” This plan will encompass regulation, the appropriate upskilling of workers, financing the transition and promoting the trade of cleantech and low-carbon industrial products. Under the plan, a new ‘Net-Zero Industry Act’ will be formed, offering clear goals for specific technologies and state aid to deliver these. This is being touted as the EU’s answer to the IRA and a bid to prevent firms from moving to the US.

Purpose-driven tech

WEF, in partnership with Accenture and Microsoft, unveiled the first prototype for a “purpose-driven metaverse” – Global Collaboration Village – where organisations can convene to learn about and take action on the world’s major challenges. Currently, 80 organisations have joined as Village Partners to bolster more diverse global collaboration and large-scale action.

Underpinning discourse around AI, innovation, tech and blockchain was the importance of maintaining human connection and striking the right balance between digital and physical.

Circular Economy

The annual Global Circularity Gap Report, published by Circle Economy in collaboration with Deloitte was launched at WEF. The report outlines that the global economy is currently only 7.2% circular and argues that “A global circular economy will allow us to fulfil people’s needs with only 70% of the materials we now extract and use,” within the safe planetary limits. The report identifies 16 transformational circular solutions, one of which being ‘eschew fast fashion in favour of sustainable textiles’, which calls for local textile manufacturing, the reuse and recycling of garments and higher quality and more durable clothing.

Fashion industry representation

Whilst it is evident that the fashion sector must play a significant role in influencing the climate trajectory and addressing social inequality, the Davos programme was not indicative of this and there were no fashion industry-specific activations on the official agenda. This undoubtedly must shift at future forums. GFA will continue to embolden its network of committed stakeholders and give them a platform for impact, accountability, alliances, collaboration and education. For those who wish to explore how the fashion industry can have a positive impact, The GFA Monitor is a guide for fashion leaders on how to reach a net positive industry through the consolidatation of existing knowledge, clear actions, proven best practices, data insights and solutions.

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Fashion Industry Target Consultation

The Fashion Industry Target Consultation is a multi-stakeholder project led by Global Fashion Agenda and the UN Environment Programme to identify and converge existing industry aligned targets to establish a holistic industry route of travel towards a net-positive fashion industry.

Participate in the consultation

Fashion Industry Target Consultation

The Fashion Industry Target Consultation is a multi-stakeholder project led by Global Fashion Agenda and the UN Environment Programme to identify and converge existing industry aligned targets to establish a holistic industry route of travel towards a net-positive fashion industry.

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    Fashion Industry Target Consultation

    The Fashion Industry Target Consultation is a multi-stakeholder project led by Global Fashion Agenda and the UN Environment Programme to identify and converge existing industry aligned targets to establish a holistic industry route of travel towards a net-positive fashion industry.

    Executive Summary

    Since the Industrial Revolution, GHG emissions have contributed to atmospheric warming that has lifted global temperatures by around 1.1 degrees, with significant regional variations. The warming has precipitated more frequent and severe risks, including flooding, fires, droughts and storms, leading to socioeconomic impacts on, e.g. liveability and workability, food systems and natural capital. With temperatures set to continue their upward trajectory, it is likely these adverse impacts will become more severe over the coming years.

     

    This research shows that the global fashion industry produced around 2.1 billion tonnes of GHG emissions in 2018, equalling 4% of the global total. This is equivalent to the combined annual GHG emissions of France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Around 70% of the fashion industry’s emissions came from upstream activities such as materials production, preparation and processing. The remaining 30% were associated with downstream retail operations, the use-phase and end-of-use activities.
     

    Adding to the challenge of reducing its GHG footprint is the expectation that the fashion industry will continue to grow as a result of shifting population and consumption patterns. If no further action is taken over the next decade beyond measures already in place, the industry’s GHG emissions will likely rise to around 2.7 billion tonnes a year by 2030, reflecting an annual volume growth rate of 2.7%.

     

    This research analyses two scenarios for the industry’s abatement efforts:

    1. Current pace trajectory.
      If the industry continues to embrace current decarbonisation initiatives at the current pace, emissions will be capped at around 2.1 billion tonnes a year by 2030, around the same as they are now. This would leave levels at nearly double the maximum required to stay on the 1.5-degree pathway.
    2. Accelerated abatement.
      To align with the 1.5-degree pathway over the next 10 years,
      the fashion industry should intensify its efforts. In practice, that means embracing accelerated abatement, which is estimated to reduce annual emissions to around 1.1 billion tonnes, around half of today’s figure. The immediate focus of accelerated abatement should be upstream operations, where around 60% of emissions savings are possible, in particular from increased use of renewable energy, through collaborative efforts supported by brands and retailers. Actions relating to brands’ own operations have the potential to deliver around 20% of the reduction, with the remainder coming from changes in consumer behaviour. By 2030, these efforts will need to have created a significantly reformed fashion landscape, in which, for example, one out of five garments are traded through a circular business model.

    The good news for the fashion industry is that many of the required actions can be delivered at
    a moderate cost. Around 90% of the accelerated abatement can be delivered below a cost of around USD50 per tonne of GHG emissions. Around 55% of the actions required will lead to net cost savings on an industrywide basis. The remaining actions will require incentivisation in the form of consumer demand or regulations to deliver abatement. Additionally, around 60% of the abatement will require upfront capital, where brands and retailers will need to support and collaborate with value chain players to invest for the long-term benefit of society and the environment.
     

    The scale of change required implies a need for bold commitments. Stakeholders throughout the value chain should be willing to make bold commitments, followed by equally bold actions, transparency, collaboration and joint investment. Brands and suppliers need to step up engagement with policy makers, support the roll out of renewable energy and drive end-of-use collections for recycling.
     

    Beyond 2030, the challenge becomes even greater. To stay on the 1.5-degree pathway, the industry needs to go beyond this vision of accelerated abatement to fundamentally redefine business models and current imperatives of economic growth and rising consumerism. For a prosperous future and an habitable earth, the industry’s ingenuity and creative spirit will be required to decouple value creation from volume growth and to move from commitments to actions.

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    The Fashion Industry Target Consultation is a multi-stakeholder project led by Global Fashion Agenda and the UN Environment Programme to identify and converge existing industry aligned targets to establish a holistic industry route of travel towards a net-positive fashion industry.

    Recent extreme weather events have provided a stark reminder that ‘climate catastrophe’ is not an abstract concept relating to the distant future, but upon us now and implicating the livelihoods of millions of people around the globe.

    Devastating floods in Pakistan have left over 1,100 people dead, more than 33 million people displaced, and one third of the country underwater. This is the culmination of extreme heat, rain and glacial ice melting in what can only be described as a climate catastrophe.

    The latest series of IPCC reports signalled that whilst everywhere is affected by climate change -with no inhabited region escaping the consequences – the vulnerability of ecosystems and people vary considerably based on factors including inequity, marginalisation, colonialism and governance. Pakistan accounts for less than 1% of global carbon emissions yet is among the top ten most vulnerable countries to climate change. This is a clear case of climate injustice.

    In another instance of acute environmental injustice unfolding right now, flooding in Jackson, Mississippi and a neglected water system has left the city’s 180,000 residents without access to safe running water. Over 80% of the city’s population is Black.

    The fashion industry cannot afford to be complacent in the face of these warnings and is uniquely positioned to influence the climate trajectory – its operations take place around the globe and it accounts for up to 4% of global emissions.  Going forward it must not only prioritise emissions reduction, but inform policymakers to equip them for appropriate legislation, and ensure all activities are inclusive and equitable. The GFA Monitor report details the imperative steps the industry must be taking in order to reduce its impact. Download for free here.

    You can support people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Pakistan by donating to UNICEF here.

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    Fashion Industry Target Consultation

    The Fashion Industry Target Consultation is a multi-stakeholder project led by Global Fashion Agenda and the UN Environment Programme to identify and converge existing industry aligned targets to establish a holistic industry route of travel towards a net-positive fashion industry.

    Dear GFA Community,

    As we usher in 2023, I want to take a moment to extend my warmest wishes for the new year and to thank you for your unwavering support throughout 2022. It is thanks to your dedication and commitment to our cause that we have continued to build a thriving and global GFA community.

    2022 marked a pivotal year for GFA; we hosted our Summit outside of Copenhagen for the first time in its 13-year history, announced landmark alliances and partnerships, launched new impact programmes and published collaborative reports.

    Amidst GFA’s breakthrough announcements and developments, 2022 was undeniably also shadowed by extreme weather events, uncertain economic landscapes, geopolitical strife, and both environmental and social challenges. These adversities exemplified the need for GFA to keep working towards its mission of a net-positive fashion industry, that gives back more to the natural world, people and societies and the economy than it takes out. Every industry is navigating the repercussions of such turbulent times, but it is imperative that we remain strong-minded and united in our ambitions for a better future.

    As we look ahead to 2023, I want to emphasise that the changes you now make, individually or collectively, can have impact well beyond the fashion industry. Let’s lead by example and inspire other industries by demonstrating the many opportunities that can be created when we steer our impact strategies with a net-positive mindset and collaborate with actors across the value cycle.

    I wish you all a wonderful festive period full of gratitude and hope. We very much look forward to continuing to inspire, educate and mobilise the industry in 2023 to generate even greater impact.

    Best wishes,

    Federica Marchionni, CEO

    Happy Holidays 2022

    Read our latest article exploring what happened in the fashion industry in 2022 here

    Our Highlights From 2022

    Copenhagen Edition

    Hosted in the grand setting of the Royal Opera House, Copenhagen, on 7-8 June, the event convened over 900 leaders to drive urgent action.

    Attendees heard from over 100 speakers including HRH The Crown Princess of Denmark and representatives from Kering, Bottega Veneta, GANNI, UNFCCC, Vestiaire Collective and many more.

    Multiple companies chose to announce their latest sustainability measures at the landmark event including Ralph Lauren Corporation, Apparel Impact Institute, Fashion Revolution, Mulberry and more.

    Ticketholders had the opportunity to meet with 24 in-person and 51 digital Innovation Forum exhibitors. Over 450 business meetings between fashion companies and sustainable solution providers were facilitated.

    Read more here and relive the content in our on-demand library here.

    Singapore Edition

    Building on the learnings from Copenhagen, on 3 November, Global Fashion Summit assembled over 300 stakeholders representing manufacturers, garment workers, retailers, brands, suppliers, NGOs, policy, and innovators in Singapore and online to spur industry impact.

    Attendees heard from over 50 speakers including representatives from PUMA, Zalando, StandUp Lanka, Singapore Fashion Council and many more.

    The Summit’s first international edition facilitated even more conversations with manufacturer and supply chain voices to discuss crucial challenges and opportunities around working collaboratively with brands on equal terms.

    Ticketholders had the opportunity to meet with 7 in-person Innovation Forum exhibitors.

    Read more here and relive the content in our on-demand library here.

    The Fashion Industry Target Consultation

    Formally announced at COP27, GFA and its new partner; the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), launched the Fashion Industry Target Consultation (FITC)- seeking public input on cohesive and measurable fashion industry impact targets according to the five priorities of the Fashion CEO Agenda.

    The consultation’s official survey is now open until February 2023 for feedback. A series of five online regional workshops co-hosted by GFA and UNEP will also run between January and February 2023 in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America & the Caribbean, and West Asia for regional participation.

    We invite you to take part in the consultation. Find out more and how to participate here.

     

    The GFA Monitor

    This year saw the unveiling of The GFA Monitor – a new resource designed to guide fashion leaders towards a net positive fashion industry by 2050.  It presents consolidated guidance according to the five core sustainability priorities of the Fashion CEO Agenda.

    Building alliances through shared industry knowledge, over 30 partners and organisations were consulted to form a cohesive resource that presents expert insights on the status of the industry, available solutions, clear actions, case studies, and proven best practices. Higg also partnered with GFA to present aggregated performance data across the five sustainability priority areas.

    Download The GFA Monitor here.

    The Global Circular Fashion Forum

    GFA launched the Global Circular Fashion Forum (GCFF), a global initiative, supported by GIZ, to spur local action in textile manufacturing countries to accelerate and scale recycling of post-industrial textile waste. The GCFF will bring together circularity programmes from different organisers to exchange knowledge, pool efforts and share best practices across regions and moreover produce a blueprint to replicate upstream circularity initiatives. It will launch in Viet Nam and Cambodia in 2023 through 2024.

    Find out more about the GCFF here.

    The Circular Fashion Partnership

    The GCFF builds on the Circular Fashion Partnership (CFP) in Bangladesh which facilitates circular commercial collaborations between textile and garment manufacturers, recyclers and fashion brands. Bestseller, Benetton, Teddy Group, H&M Group, Usha Yarns, C&A, Inditex, Kmart, Peak Performance, Cyclo, OVS and Primark are supporting partners that are actively engaged in the Circular Fashion Partnership.

    This year, technology partner, Reverse Resources, tracked 6,910,155 kg of textile waste segregated and collected from manufacturers to recycling solutions and onboarded 81 manufacturers to its platform in Bangladesh.

    GFA worked to establish funding from UNIDO Switch to Circular Economy Value Chains to continue activities in Bangladesh through 2025.

    Find out more about the CFP here.

    COP27

    GFA worked to place fashion firmly on the COP27 agenda during the conference in Sharm El Sheikh.

    To mark the launch of the FITC, GFA and UNEP facilitated two events at COP27 speaking to the importance of holistic, inclusive industry targets to establish an industry-aligned route of travel towards net-positive for both people and planet.

    GFA also hosted an event discussing the alliances to decarbonise the fashion value chain. This event built on GFA’s research into cross-sectoral collective action opportunities to finance the increase of renewable energy in manufacturing countries.

    Continuing GFA’s partnership with UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC), Federica Marchionni also contributed to UNFCCC’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action event.

    Read more about GFA’s activities at COP27 here.

    Policy

    Following the launch of the EU Textiles Strategy, our CEO, Federica Marchionni and our Public Affairs Director, Maria Luisa Martinez Diez, took part in two high-level roundtables hosted by the European Commissioner in charge of the Environment Virginijus Sinkevičius. Both the Global Fashion Summits in Copenhagen and Singapore have given increased attention to policy and the forthcoming EU Textiles Strategy – with a total of four dynamic policy segments.

    Additionally, GFA joined the European Fashion Alliance in June of 2022 as well as the EU Pact for skills. When it comes to the Policy Hub-Circularity for Apparel and Footwear, we lead two EPR roundtables as well as a transparency media masterclass. This was also done alongside a daily follow up, analysis and advocacy actions around seven policy work streams.

    New Alliances & Partnerships

    In March, GFA forged a new alliance with UN Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) to accelerate the fashion industry’s climate action, which was activated around the organisations’ prestigious forums including GFA’s Global Fashion Summit and the UNFCCC’s annual Fashion Charter meeting and Conference of Parties (COP). Read more about the alliance here.

    At Global Fashion Summit: Singapore Edition, Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) announced a new partnership with BBC Storyworks Commercial Productions to launch a new branded film series on social and environmental sustainability in the fashion industry, which will be released to a wide audience on a dedicated BBC.com microsite in 2023. Members of the GFA network are invited to share their stories for potential inclusion in this commercial series. Read more about the project here.

    Building further alliances, GFA partnered with Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) to host the SAC Annual Meeting and Global Fashion Summit back-to-back in Singapore in order to complement each organizations strengths, build greater synergy and ensure a more compelling experience for attendees to accelerate greater impact. Read more about the alliance here.

    This year, GFA was also delighted to be an official Nominator for the 2022 Earthshot Prize, the most prestigious and ambitious global environment prize in history, designed to incentivise change and aid in the repair of our planet over the next ten years. Explore the winners here.

    Furthermore, GFA welcomed three new Associate Partners: Neiman Marcus Group, PUMA, and Vestiaire Collective; a new Data Partner: Higg; five new impact partners: Fair Labor Association, the Social & Labor Convergence Program, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Apparel Impact Institute, and Textile Exchange, and a Summit Media Partner: FT Live.

    Explore all of our partners here

    Throughout the year, Global Fashion Agenda has paid close attention to industry developments, noteworthy days and core themes.

    To learn more about these explore our latest news page here.

    Participate in the consultation

    Fashion Industry Target Consultation

    The Fashion Industry Target Consultation is a multi-stakeholder project led by Global Fashion Agenda and the UN Environment Programme to identify and converge existing industry aligned targets to establish a holistic industry route of travel towards a net-positive fashion industry.