I attended the Copenhagen Fashion Summit this year, the 10th anniversary of the event. I was so impressed by the calibre of speakers + presenters, the city of Copenhagen - and the overall tone of messaging conveyed. I came away with ideas, goals, copious notes - and a few new connections with some wonderful individuals doing great things in the responsible fashion space. We heard from speakers talking of circularity, upcycling of ocean plastics, living wages for workers in manufacturing, the hidden prevalence of child labour, excessive water use in fashion, the need to get government + fashion leaders at the same table, to ensure policy change supports a more sustainable + responsible fashion industry.
'THE BIGGEST RENEWABLE ENERGY IS HUMAN CREATIVITY' - DR MARTIN FRICK
All extremely valuable + insightful information. I did however wonder when we were going to hear about factory farming - and the requisite co-products, given it's now widely understood that factory farming is contributing enormously to the degradation of the planet. The answer to this was one 25 minute panel discussion - entitled 'From Farm to fashion: Animals in fashion supply chains'. Moderated by Marion Hume, International Fashion Editor, The Australian Financial Review - the panellists were Dr Helen Crowley, Head of Sustainability at Kering, La Rhea Pepper Managing Director of Textile Exchange + Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming. It was an admirable line-up. However, other than words from Mr Lymbery (excellent article quoting Philip Lymbery here), regarding the need to reduce the number of farmed animals on this planet by at least 50%, the devastating assertion that we have only 60 years of good soil left if we continue with our factory farming ways + a quick nod to the importance of the '5 Freedoms' embedded in animal welfare laws
(consistently proven to not be upheld on many farms btw) the panel failed to discuss the environmental + ethical impact the 'use' of animals has in the fashion supply chain. The uncomfortable truth, in my opinion, is that we're leaving the reality of mass animal raising off the sustainability agenda in the fashion industry, because it is too profitable. Clearly cruelty free doesn't concern enough people yet when it comes to cows, pigs, sheep - yet the fur free campaign is gaining ground, so perhaps there is hope. Regardless, even if people wish to remain ignorant of the cruel practices of factory farming + mass animal raising for slaughter - the environmental issues are not going to disappear. We talk about upcycling nets + single use plastic that has made its way into the oceans - wonderful - yet, we could also talk about not eating fish or at least reducing the yields that industrial fishing is allowed to rip from the ocean (with nets).
TOP 5 TAKEAWAYS FROM THE EVENT:
Sustainability cannot be a competitive field + there is no more 'business as usual'.
Long term purpose versus short term profits needs to be the evolved mantra of boards, if we want to have a habitable earth to live on.
Collaborations + coalitions are essential - one fashion brand can't solve the problems alone. If luxury group Kering can talk sustainability with fast fashion retailer H+M, our retail brands in Australia can come to table + share knowledge. We need more of this. Creating a coalition of activist brands bringing together collective intelligence.
- We need to educate girls + improve gender equality. It is essential for social, health + economic development - and for fairness.
Circularity is the goal. We are not even close in the broader fashion (and requisite manufacturing) industry, but what WILL help is buying less, buying better, upcycling, repairing, swapping...and avoiding landfill-destined purchases.
The overall message from the Summit was that the fashion industry was not moving fast enough, to contribute to the arrest of global warming. From the UN to the ICCC, 11 or 12 years seems to be the time frame to get our skates on + accelerate positive change, before we are at the point of no return. Sea levels rising, too much carbon in the atmosphere, natural catastrophes becoming more common. We can't do it alone, so coming together, across industry + government, is essential. We're an innovative species. In the paraphrased words of Paul Polman
Chair International Chamber of Commerce + the B team, we don't need more technology + PHD's, we just need to decide if we actually CARE.
“MAN IS THE MOST INSANE SPECIES. HE WORSHIPS AN INVISIBLE GOD AND DESTROYS A VISIBLE NATURE. UNAWARE THAT THIS NATURE HE’S DESTROYING IS THIS GOD HE’S WORSHIPING.”