COP27’s top takeaways for fashion brands

During the biggest climate conference in the world — COP27, which wrapped up in Egypt last week — it became more apparent that the fashion industry still has work to do right-track its environmental impact. But experts are optimistic that sustainability initiatives and environmental impact awareness will remain focuses for the industry in the coming year, based on the groundwork that’s been established. 

We outline three strategies fashion brands can use to promote sustainability in 2023 according to experts from COP27.

Start acting on fashion’s ‘brain print,’ not just it’s footprint

Rachel Arthur, sustainability consultant and founder of sustainable community platform FashMash, said there needs to be a shift in the narrative around fashion’s environmental impact. The industry’s emissions are said to account for 2-8% of total global emissions, but that’s just one piece of the pie. “The industry has a much larger brain print,” said Arthur, explaining that fashion has a broader impact, on people’s lifestyles. She said that fashion’s focus on constant consumption, trends, and exclusivity encourage wider consumption habits.  “That responsibility, whether you’re a fast fashion brand or a luxury brand or anything in between, is huge, in terms of the change that we can be making.” 

“Looking into 2023 and beyond, the industry needs to take more ownership in starting to turn things around,” said Arthur. “Fashion can point consumers, businesses, other sectors and policy makers toward a lifestyle that will keep us within that 1.5 degree target” set by the Paris Agreement to curb planet-changing climate effects. 

With campaigns by Vestiaire Collective, Ebay, and others encouraging consumers to shop resale products rather than new products, and with more consumers choosing to avoid greenwashing companies or their products, consumer behavior is beginning to change. Fashion is also influencing other sectors, such as science and technology through investment and proof-of-concept. Take, for example: Hermès In collaboration with MycoWorks, Pangaia has a growing number of material partners and made a mycelium bag. 

COP27 also announced a new initiative. Partnership between retailers including H&M, Kering and Inditex with non-profit Canopy. To reduce their carbon footprints, the brands committed to buying over half a millon tonnes of low-carbon fibers to use in clothing and packaging.

“​​We don’t currently have big, commercial-scale production at this point, with the notable exception of our Renewcell mill [opened November 14],” said Nicole Rycroft, founder and executive director of Canopy. “But these purchasing commitments by brands [could] This will change the landscape by signaling to investors that this market is open to sourcing these innovative solutions. We anticipate that we’ll have at least 10-20 of these mills between now and 2025.”

Debbie Shakespeare, Avery Dennison RBIS’ head of sustainability compliance, core PLM and core PLM, spoke at COP27. She said that fabric recycling should be a key focus for brands. “If we recycle fabrics on an industrial scale, the costs of recycled material will come down, and brands will be able to make real progress toward their Scope 3 sustainability goals. It will take a reliable information bridge to enable all parties to be able to fully understand the provenance, material make-up and purpose of every garment. [obtain] information on how to recycle.”

Through open discussion, resolve tensions between ESG commitments and antitrust.

Transparency could become a cornerstone topic of sustainability conversations in the industry, to ensure they don’t violate antitrust laws. This year, the antitrust element was brought into play.

In May 2022 Reuters Reports indicate that the agreement was signed by several fashion companies Forum letter and created the Rewiring Fashion E.U. raided proposal in May 2021 antitrust regulators in the United Kingdom for their antitrust violations. These included Selfridges and Rodarte, Thom Browne, and more than 50 other companies. Both the letter and proposal were focused on limiting global brands’ practices of releasing multiple collections a year, as well as repairing the damaging impact of the fashion calendar on brand sales. One, fast fashion brands copy runway designs.  

This problem presents a dilemma for the industry. Although the answer is still being sought, fashion houses and brands will be more likely to implement change if there are open conversations alongside government reform. 

“Growing the fashion industry will grow its greenhouse gas footprint at the same time, unless we carve out more sustainable models for production and consumption,” said Shakespeare. “That means fully embracing circularity, investing in innovation and scaling proven innovative solutions.”

Moreover, the U.S. Fashion Act and the E.U. sustainable textile strategy regulation are being implemented. Commission in May are affecting brands’ long-term planning. E.U. All goods imported to the E.U. will be subject to E.U. standards and regulations The new regulations will be in effect from 2030. Modified The Fashion Act could be passed in the next year. Fashion retailers and manufacturers doing business in New York will be subject to the Fashion Act.

The industry is working together to find new ways to reduce revenue from extraction of resources through de-growth. “All across the value chain, from raw material procurement to the supply chain to consumer facing revenue streams, sustainability is an alternative source of value creation. It could be in the reduction of risk, margin enhancement, speed-to-market, or new distribution channels. [it provides], like resale,” said Frank Zambrelli, executive director of the Responsible Business Coalition at Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business. “Companies have begun recognizing that their products need to be built and priced with the idea of selling them more than once, with materials that help them reach both their financial goals and the ESG targets, for investors to reward such behavior with higher valuations.”

According to management consulting company Bain and Co., purpose-led brands “create a virtuous cycle that forms the heart of a new, self-reinforcing model of purpose-driven capitalism” by shining a light on an existing ESG issue. They increase consumer interest, stimulate retailer demand, and encourage high-quality employees. This results in higher growth and more interest from investors. In seed funding, Active Partners and Venrex provided $5.7 million to Tala, a sustainable activewear brand. Venture capital firm Molten Ventures led a $25.3 million Series B funding round for Material Exchange, a platform that enables sustainable sourcing.

Cross-brand collaboration is the norm in co-opetition

Brands that like Puma Already, people are talking about cooperation with competitors to reach a common goal. “Across and within industries, leadership is becoming attuned to the [fact] that certain elements of fashion industry transformation simply cannot happen without partnership,” said Zambrelli. 

“Every company will be reliant on their partners, vendors and suppliers to assist them and each other in achieving publicly facing greenhouse emissions targets,” said Zambrelli. “The next few years will see a revolution in collaboration, as stakeholders find new ways, products, services and information systems that facilitate these partnerships [facilitating] greater sustainable and financial success.”

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