Event: Pro-climate regulations are key incentives for greening the fashion industry

14 October 2021
ITC News

The International Trade Centre hosted a PreCOP26 discussion on greening one of the most polluting industries in the world.

The fashion industry is a key contributor to environmental damage and climate change. Going green can be complex and costly for suppliers; however, it offers long-term cost savings and new business opportunities for green products and services.

The fashion sector accounted for 4% of global emissions in 2018. The industry is required to act fast to halve emissions by 2030 to achieve the Paris Agreement commitment. Fashion also contributes to water pollution due to the toxic chemicals used in the production process and microplastics in synthetic materials. Moreover, only 1% of clothes were being recycled in 2017.

Small and medium businesses as innovators

In the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26), the International Trade Centre GreenToCompete team brought together a dedicated group of experts for collaborative actions that can accelerate the ecological transition of the fashion industry.

The experts:

Nikhil Hirdaramani, who heads a fourth-generation clothing manufacturer group from Sri Lanka, with facilities in Viet Nam, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and created the first carbon-neutral facility in Asia 15 years ago.

Denica Flesch, founder of Sukkha Citta in Indonesia, advocates for the ‘from seed to closet’ movement and enables her customers to make an informed choice through sharing the process behind each piece of clothing.

Nathalie Balfroid, co-founder of Jukebox Clothes in Belgium, rents out sustainably produced clothing from European brands.

Niclas Svennigsen, Manager of the Global Climate Action at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), leads the effort of mobilizing leading fashion brands to sign up to a UN fashion charter for climate action.

Five calls for action

The United Nations’ Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action calls for international brands to join the charter and ‘integrate sustainability into their DNA, invest upfront but for long-term benefits, and educate consumers with powerful storytelling.’

Consumers play an essential role in driving sustainable demand. Denica Flesch expressed that ‘over-consumerism leads to other issues; therefore, it’s key to be mindful of what we consume.’

Discussions at multilateral fora, especially the forthcoming COP26 and the World Trade Organization’s 12th Ministerial Conference, offer an opportunity for policymakers to enable pro-climate regulations incentivizing low-carbon fashion producers – many of whom are from developing countries, as Nikhil Hirdaramani and Niclas Svenningsen elaborated during the discussion.

Moreover, it was crucial to involve financiers to ‘adjust financing towards scaling up innovation around circularity, renewable energy, and technology that helps accelerate the green transition processes,’ as Hirdaramani highlighted.

Nathalie Balfroid noted that finance should be accessible to everyone as ‘too often, for small businesses, financing is still a challenge.’

Small businesses, which account for at least 50% of jobs globally and half of the greenhouse gas emissions, play an important role in the global economy. By empowering them with knowledge, connecting them to relevant experts, and engaging them in a global network, small businesses could seize opportunities in their green economic transition and gain a competitive advantage.

About GreenToCompete

GreenToCompete is the International Trade Centre’s activator for an inclusive transition to a green economy that profits both the planet and people