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COP26: The pressure's on for the fashion industry.

Fashion companies are collectively responsible for 5% to 8% of climate emissions every year. Recognising their role in driving climate change, many of the largest global brands came together in 2018 to sign the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, to support the goals of the Paris Agreement.

More recently, several fashion organisations penned an open letter to world leaders ahead of COP26, including the following five calls to action:

  1. Collective action to achieve net zero emissions by no later than 2050

  2. Resourcefulness in waste elimination

  3. Increase responsibility by businesses towards their global supply chains

  4. Support skills development in education to encourage children to learn the necessary skills to make, repair and re-use their clothes

  5. Frame any solutions to the climate emergency around business models that shift the focus from profit and loss, to a just transition towards the well-being economy

However, a new analysis released last week claims that no major brand evaluated is anywhere near achieving a 1.5°C pathway, the goal that scientists say is necessary. Fashion is facing growing pressure to move beyond easy sustainability steps, and take on the harder, but crucial steps to reform their supply chains.

As the Fashion Charter on Climate Action works towards a new/updated commitment, it is clear that the industry’s long term ambitions need to be underpinned by detailed, near-term commitments in order to make them meaningful.

Policymakers will play an important role in instigating change. If governments choose to financially support renewable energy solutions, and embed emissions targets into their regulations, brands and suppliers will be pressured into making choices that right now are seen as optional.

But as fashion technology grows faster than ever, AI and advanced technologies also play a significant part in the industry’s push for sustainability. And that’s where we come in. Return rates for clothing and shoes are currently up to 40%, and research from EY shows that 76% of shoppers return clothes because of sizing, with many retailers sending 25% of these returns directly to landfill.

Our hope is that by empowering brands and consumers to understand how body dimensions and shape characteristics drive garment development, we can reduce return rates by at least 30%. And by helping brands design and develop garments that offer their consumer base a better fit, we’ll also help them improve full price sell-through, and reduce their number of wasted, unsold goods.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report calls for immediate and drastic improvements in climate action plans. As COP26 gets underway, we hope that the fashion sector not only sets ambitious climate targets, but details the concrete steps needed to meet them.

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