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SDG 13 | Climate Action & Fashion

Welcome back to the sixth article in our series delving into the links between the Sustainable Development Goals and Australia’s textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industry. This time we explore the role the TCF industry plays in achieving SDG 13, Climate Action…

by The AFC

5 February 2020



Climate change and fashion: The role the TCF industry plays in achieving SDG 13

WORDS | Julie Boulton & Aleasha McCallion, Monash Sustainable Development Institute

Welcome back to the sixth article in our series delving into the links between the Sustainable Development Goals and Australia’s textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industry. This time we explore the role the TCF industry plays in achieving SDG 13, Climate Action.

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 we’re talking climate

In our last article pre-Christmas, we noted the signing by the AFC of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action (the Charter) in November. In this article, our sixth in the SDG series, we will start with a recap of what the Charter is, summarise why it is significant (and why we support AFC signing) and then look at the links between the Charter and SDG 13 Climate Action.

The devastating fires that have affected so many Australians this summer gives a focus to this article, which we were not expecting at the end of November. Climate change is, clearly, something that we are now living through. What we are interested in - and why we are writing this now - is that there are ideas, actions and solutions, both for the fashion industry and consumers. It is timely to focus on our climate and the efforts that we can all make - because we have the power - to protect our precious planet.

Our colleagues at ClimateWorks Australia crystallise for us that;

“to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change, scientists have estimated a physical limit on the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) that can be released into the atmosphere before a 1.5. C or 2. C average temperature increase is breached. In other words, we need to put the carbon handbrake on.” [1]


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The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action

The Charter was created by a group of fashion stakeholders looking to “identify ways in which the broader textile, clothing and fashion industry can move towards a holistic commitment to climate action.” [2] It was launched at COP24 in December 2018, (COP24 being the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). 48 signatories initially signed, and the number has now increased to 96 including Conde Nast joining in November 2019 [3]. Australian signatories include Kmart Australia Limited and Target Australia, of Wesfarmers Group.

The Charter recognises the role that “fashion industry stakeholders have to play in reducing climate emissions resulting from their operations.” It also notes that all companies involved in fashion, retail and textile, irrespective of size or location, “have opportunities to take actions that will result in a measurable reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

The Charter comprises of 16 principles, with Principle 2 and 3 seen as the ‘centrepiece’ principles. Principle 2 commits signatories to a 30% aggregate greenhouse gas reduction by 2030 and Principle 3 is a commitment to analyse and set “a decarbonisation pathway for the fashion industry drawing on methodologies from the Science-Based Targets Initiative.” Additional principles cover issues such as tracking and reporting, partnering with each other and with external stakeholders for solutions: supporting low-carbon transport; and building educational type relationships with consumers to openly discuss climate change.

This is an ambitious plan of action, with significant targets that the fashion industry has set itself. What is particularly encouraging, though, is that the industry itself recognises that  it has a role to play in combating climate change and that it is willing to step up to the challenge. The Charter is “a clear demonstration that the fashion industry is serious about urgently acting on climate change and is keen to set an example to other sectors around the level of commitment required to meet the scale of the climate challenge.” [4]   

As immediate past CEO of the AFC, Dave David Giles-Kaye stated;

 “Climate Change is the issue of our time. The global fashion industry is, and has been, a major contributor to the problem, but this means we are a key part of the solution too. Making public commitments to taking action on Climate Change is critical to making progress on this, as is setting milestones and being actively involved. By signing the Charter, AFC commit to working with the Australian and the global industry to make change happen.”

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Understanding the impact of the fashion industry’s contribution to climate change

You may be asking how significant, really, is the fashion industry’s contribution to global  carbon emissions? Well, it’s not insignificant, because carbon emissions take place across every aspect of the fashion process: from raw materials extraction, textile and product production, transportation and marketing. 

Although statistics regarding carbon emissions of the fashion industry are varied, and there is some debate over the accuracy of emissions contribution overall, there is still, clearly, an enormous impact on carbon emissions by the industry. 



Statistics include:

● 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the textiles industry[5];

● About 10% of all carbon emissions globally are emitted by the textiles industry, with apparel representing 6.7% of global climate impacts (3,290 million metric tons CO2eq) [6];

● In 2015, production of polyester for textiles use resulted in more than 706 billion kg of CO2e and the production of a single polyester t-shirt emits 5.5 kg CO2e (compared with 2.1 kg CO2e for one made from cotton [7]); and,

● It takes 3,781 litres of water to make a pair of jeans, from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store and that equates to the equivalent of emitting of around 33.4 kg of carbon [8];

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SDG 13

SDG 13 is the specific Climate Action goal of the SDGs. Despite its relative brevity – there are only five targets – the contents of SDG 13 pack quite a punch. For this article, we are most interested in 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning 

While, at first glance the wording may appear that it applies only for national governments  - as it is within their purview to integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning - we suggest that a more expansive view should be taken. While the SDGs were unanimously agreed by governments, their success relies on action and collaboration between all parts of society, including business.

“Business is a vital partner in achieving the SDGs. Companies can contribute through their core activities, and we ask companies everywhere to assess their impact, set ambitious goals and communicate transparently about their results.” [9]

Ban Ki-moon, Former UN SG

Consequently, we read Target 13.2 as follows: Integrate climate change measures into a company’s policies, strategies and planning. There are some steps that the industry can take that align both with the Charter and with meeting the targets of SDG 13 

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What can businesses do to respond to SDG 13 and The Charter, and curb emissions? 

  1. Know your emissions: undertake an audit and identify how you could set accurate net zero emissions targets.

    You can start with your immediate operations but also consider your supply chain to understand where things could improve. “Only 19.5% of brands are publishing the carbon footprint in their supply chain, where over 50% of the industry’s emissions occur, according to Quantis”. [10]   

  2. Make a public commitment on carbon reduction appropriate for your business. 

    ●      Signing The Charter is a commitment. “Any company/organisation professionally engaged in the fashion sector, and which is committed to the principles of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, may participate in this work by signing the letter of commitment to the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action”. 

    ●      The UN Global Compact Caring for Climate initiative could also be relevant to your business

    ●      A statement that your business endorses the SDGs could also be made. 

  3. Report on your progress: be transparent both your commitments and your progress. 

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CONCLUSION

This Charter is a great step forward toward achieving the targets within SDG 13, but solving climate change is not something that the industry can or should do alone. As the Charter itself highlights, collaboration is a critical link; “look for means of collaborating with each other and outside of the sector to find and implement solutions”.  

In other sectors, for example, “Australian banks are taking steps towards net zero emissions, but actions are not yet comprehensive”, where as “Australia’s property sector is building momentum towards net zero emissions.”  Learn more in ClimateWorks Australia’s Net Zero Momentum Tracker Banking Sector  and Property Sector reports. 

Already, there are some amazing examples of businesses that have undertaken a carbon audit - looking at you Elk! - both on their direct operations as well as across their supply chain. There is also help available from institutions (like our own ClimateWorks Australia) which have been working in the climate space for over a decade and can assist and provide advice for organisational net zero emissions targets. 

And, as we mentioned in our last edition, we are super pumped about a range of events planned for this year, such as Legacy Summit and Raw Assembly. These events provide safe spaces for all stakeholders to discuss these issues in more detail and, perhaps more importantly, devise whole system solutions for the Australian industry to consider. We hope to see you there.


LEGACY 2019 | Patrick Duffy, Melinda Tually, Edwina McCann & Clare Press

LEGACY 2019 | Patrick Duffy, Melinda Tually, Edwina McCann & Clare Press


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This article is thanks to Julie Boulton & Aleasha McCallion from Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University. Stay tuned from more from this series as they delve into the SDG’s in detail over the coming months, and join the conversation on Twitter at @MonashMSDI

 To read more about SDGs look here:

To see Australia’s overall progress on SDGs, look here:


REFERENCES

[1] https://www.climateworksaustralia.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/cwa_zeroing_in.pdf

[2] About the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action

[3] Conde Nast Signs Fashion Industry Charter for Global Climate Action

[4] About the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action

[5] 2018 Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries Study

[6] 2018 Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries Study

[7] Kirchain, R., Olivetti, E., Reed Miller, T. & Greene, S. Sustainable Apparel Materials (Materials Systems Laboratory, 2015, taken from The price of fast fashion. Nature Clim Change 8, 1 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-017-0058-9

[8] https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/cleaning-couture-whats-your-jeans

[9] SDG Compass, The Guide for Business Action on the SDGs, UN Global Compact, GRI and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development https://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/issues_doc/development/SDGCompassExecSum.pdf

[10] https://issuu.com/fashionrevolution/docs/fashion_transparency_index_2019

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