It is a great pleasure to be back at Global Fashion Summit alongside the industry’s foremost leaders, visionaries, researchers and catalysts.
I’ve said this more than once in this forum however, I feel it is important to reiterate, as it reinforces the strong influence of the Fashion industry: You are all part of a creative industry that has led and inspired for generations, now is an opportunity to inspire worldwide and across industries.
In other words, show the world how a complex industry can transform: to one that protects the fragility of and conserves our natural world. To one that gives more to people, societies and the economy than it takes. A new fashion industry that is not only inspiring and bountiful, but sustainable and inclusive as well.
For this transformation to occur, it will require a collective effort across all sectors of the industry, an effort by every individual agent and company.
Working together, building new and robust partnerships, together with a greater sharing of innovation, knowledge and know-how and processes and systems is the way forward.
Solidifying and accelerating a new way of doing business is critical.
Therefore, it is commendable how the Global Fashion Agenda continues to inspire, challenge and mobilise the industry – also demonstrated by this year’s Summits focus on ‘Ambition to Action’.
It is promising to see Global Fashion Agenda expanding these alliances and converging with adjacent industries and sectors, with for example, the United Nations Environment Programme, Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030 and Maersk.
In April this year, I had the opportunity to visit the island countries Vanuatu and Fiji together with the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy, Dan Jørgensen. Our visit took place just a short time after the country of Vanuatu was hit, by not one but two category 4 cyclones within 24 hours of each other. We witnessed both the harsh realities of climate change as well as the inspiring resilience of the communities in the Pacific Ocean region.
The extreme weather events we are witnessing globally provide a stark reminder that the dire consequences of climate change are upon us now, implicating the livelihoods of millions of people.
We must collectively minimize our environmental damage and impact on climate change.
For the fashion industry this is a complex matrix of interconnected matters, including deforestation, displacement, rising sea levels, dangerous weather events, microplastic pollution, dwindling levels of biodiversity, human health risks, food scarcity and, above all, extreme inequality.
Phew….Sounds daunting, overwhelming and perhaps leaves some with a feeling of being paralyzed by the enormity of overcoming this global challenge. But….it is often said: with challenge comes opportunity, where there is darkness, there is light, where there is difficulty, there is potential for growth.
So where lies the opportunity, light and potential for growth?
- It lies in working together – locally and globally.
- It lies in partnerships committed to developing new and sustainable textiles, production methods, transport systems and circular economies.
- It lies in innovative solutions for water and waste management.
- It lies in the ability to effectively measure the industry’s progress towards becoming net-positive.
- It lies in an increased awareness amongst consumers, leading to a shift towards more conscious buying habits.
We are seeing some positive progress in efforts towards Circular Systems. For example, the second-hand clothing sector saw 28% growth in 2022. And by 2024, 10% of the global apparel market is expected to be made up of second-hand apparel.
This progress is only incremental but, nevertheless promising as it demonstrates that scalability is also possible.
In the last year, Global Fashion Agenda and the UN Environment Programme conducted the first global consultation to capture a diverse range of perspectives on the milestones the industry must meet to become net-positive and most importantly, what support different actors around the world need in order to achieve this goal.
Over 600 stakeholders representing over 90 countries participated. The learnings from this will be shared soon but the resounding takeaway is that whilst our realities, contexts and possibilities vary greatly, what we share is the common necessity to move towards net positive.
With such an array of information circulating about sustainability, it can be challenging for leaders to identify which actions will lead them on the path to progress.
Assessing the progress of the industry is essential if we are to genuinely improve performance across key priorities and the industry as a whole.
And Global Fashion Agenda’s GFA Monitor is also a strong resource here. Through the consolidation of existing knowledge, clear actions, proven best practices, data insights and solutions, the report is a tool and guide to drive impact and support fashion leaders on the pathway to net positive by 2050.
My challenge to all of you here today is to pinpoint your priorities where the solutions are already evident and be back here next year ready to share your results with us all.
I would recommend visiting The Innovation Forum so you can hear about some of the concrete and innovative solutions that are emerging. Last year, the forum facilitated over 450 meetings between brands and solutions providers.
In closing, I would like to leave you with a little food for thought: When your brainstorming, designing or researching potential solutions to achieve a net positive industry by 2050, look at the world we are living-in in a wholistic way. Putting humans and societies at the centre is insufficient. Nature’s own eco-systems must also be at the centre of any product, service or solution. By doing so we recognise that we are not living ‘on’ planet earth but, living 'with‘ planet earth.