From incorporating low carbon fibres into the manufacturing process to responsible sourcing, this year’s COP27 highlighted key steps fashion businesses can take to have a positive impact on their carbon footprint. Clare Woodford, global director, impact and engagement at manufacturing company Alpine Group, tells us more.
The 27th United Nations Climate change conference, also known as COP27, was held earlier this month from 6 – 18 November in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. With the fashion industry known to be the second most polluting industry after the oil and gas sector, according to sustainable solutions provider Geneco, the annual COP27 has shed light on how the industry can make a difference such as using low carbon fibres to reduce the negative impact on the environment.
Alpine Group – a textile innovation and apparel manufacturing business, whose brand partners include American Eagle Outfitters and Under Armour – sponsored this year’s COP and was the official creator of the COP27 uniforms – made from repurposed textile waste.
Clare Woodford, global director, impact and engagement at Alpine Group, told Drapers what she took away from this year’s COP27 from a fashion industry perspective.
What were you expecting to see from COP27?
Before the event, we hoped that COP27 would see new agreements being made by governments to reduce the global emissions across all sectors and countries. As the latest United Nations report explains, current pledges put the planet on track for an average 2.8 degrees Celsius temperature rise this century, so the time for inaction has passed. All players wanting to take sustainability seriously should be on the lookout for regulation coming out of COP that may impact operations.
Which outcomes were you most pleased to see?
Now that the outcomes of COP27 have been published, it is hard not to be disappointed by the agreements in place, however, this year’s summit was held under difficult circumstances as countries struggle with challenging geopolitical and economic conditions. Therefore, it is significant this year that parties agreed to establish the loss and damage fund [a fund to help developing and climate-vulnerable countries overcome the effects of worsening weather], which will support vulnerable nations who are most affected by climate change.
Whilst the details of the fund need to be developed over the next year, this is real progress in terms of directing support to communities most in need, and we hope to see clear rules establishing its functionality. Commitments to reducing global emissions and phasing out fossil fuels were discussed but in conclusion, they were not as robust and measurable as we all hoped.
How is COP in particular tackling climate change issues within the fashion industry?
There were three main announcements for the fashion industry that were brought to light at COP27. Responsible sourcing was at the forefront of most discussions and as a fabric innovation and apparel manufacturing group, we were pleased to hear the commitment led by Canopy, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to protecting the world’s forests, and many fashion leaders such as Stella McCartney and Kering who pledged to source low carbon fibers to reduce their environmental impacts on endangered forests.
LVHM showed commitment to protecting and restoring biodiversity in collaboration with the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance [an alliance that is building a global network of Living Labs for nature, people and planet] by focusing on regenerative agriculture [a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems including topsoil regeneration and increasing biodiversity]. There was also an announcement from the Global Fashion Agenda, in partnership with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who have launched The Fashion Industry Target Consultation, a multistakeholder project focusing on establishing industry-wide targets with the aim to help the fashion industry become net positive.
What impact is fashion having on the climate?
Climate change and fashion are closely intertwined and currently the fashion industry is unable to decarbonise its supply chains at the rate and scale needed to keep global warming below 1.5°C. The reason lies in several aspects related to used raw materials, production levels and technologies, energy sources, traceability and so on. Fashion and textile supply chains are incredibly complex, however, we know that the manufacturing and processing materials stage produces the most emissions.
Where there any talking points raised at COP27 on this matter?
There were many panel discussions at COP27, including those that looked at the fashion industry; touching on issues that include circularity, nature-based solutions and the race to net-zero. As part of Alpine Group’s COP27 participation, I took part in the Sustainable Innovation Forum on the Climate Positive Consumption Panel, alongside representatives from Visa, BMW and DPDHL. The discussion highlighted that positive consumption requires collaboration and cannot happen in silos. It is through collaborating with our brand partners that we can help them reach their sustainability goals, and in turn, we can collectively work to create the radical change required for the industry in order to make fashion fit for the future.