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Can Fashion Combat ‘Code Red’?

September 17, 2021
Author: Jasmine Waters

Environmental protests have been a hot topic for the last few years, and the fashion industry has been centered under the microscope. There is a growing need for fashion to be seen implementing crucial environmental changes, as consumer awareness continues to grow. After the IPCC’s damning climate report earlier this year, can fashion actually step up to the plate to change for the better?

Is fashion environmentally bad?

In recent weeks, Selfridges has been called out for its stocking of polyester-heavy brands, and hand in fast fashion giants such as Primark. Reports now suggest deep emission cuts are needed within the next 10 years to keep the worst predicted effects of climate change at bay. Establishing fashion’s exact role within this has always been tricky. Studies have now shown the industry’s total emissions range somewhere between 4-10% of the global total. Fashion doesn’t look to be able to hit its 2030 reduction targets either, with few companies looking to make actual change to slashing emissions in their supply chain. Now comes the need to move beyond citied targets into strategic action.

What can be done to create change?

There’s no doubt that there are potentially incredibly impactful initiatives already in the works. Collectively, focus and investment are now what’s needed to filter into all parts of the industry. One of the key areas of impact is the supply chain, with proposed adjustments including energy efficiency measures and pipe insulation looking to create cheaper, renewable alternatives to the current structure. Even raw material production will need to be targeted, running on equipment mostly powered by coal. Substantial investment will be needed—in-line with trying to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, it will cost the industry approximately $700 billion.

Brands need to be stepping up to the plate, offering to co-invest instead of leaving eventual changes up to their suppliers. Commitments must run deeper than surface-level, looking towards new business models such as rental and resale. Solutions that provide support are needed to begin to see effective change over the next few years.

Photo source: NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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