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Copenhagen Fashion Week publishes annual sustainability report

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

1 Feb 2021

A year into its “radical” sustainability plan announced in January 2020, Copenhagen Fashion Week has published its first annual report, as it looks to hold itself accountable and maintain transparency, while it encourages other fashion companies to do the same.

The report notes that 2020 was an “extraordinarily eventful and challenging year” and that the global pandemic “unleashed unpredictability, unprecedented changes and a new normal on the world”. However, it adds that 2020 also gave “a much-needed focus on social issues and injustice” with dialogue on sexism, inequality, racism and the environment.

Cecilie Thorsmark, chief executive of Copenhagen Fashion Week, said in a statement: “Despite a challenging year, we believe that the status of our Sustainability Action Plan shows the potential of our strategy and three-year targets to inspire and push fashion companies to embrace more sustainable business practices. Although unable to meet every one of the goals set for 2020, most goals were accomplished and we look forward to continuing the work.”

While the fashion organisation reports that it didn’t meet all of its goals set for 2020, it did record what it calls “significant milestones” in becoming more sustainable.

In the report, it notes that progress was made in the development of the 2023 sustainability requirements for participating brands. In order to take part in its fashion week by 2023, brands will have to comply with minimum standards as well as obtain a minimum points score in a sustainability survey.

Throughout 2020, in collaboration with Rambøll, In futurum and Dansk Fashion and Textile, Copenhagen Fashion Week has developed a carefully weighted point system, which considers both impact and challenge level, to enable the technical implementation of the requirements in an online survey for brands to fill out. On January 20, 2021, the organisation kicked off a pilot test of the sustainability requirements survey system with 12 brands. The results of the pilot test it added will allow it to establish a baseline score for determining the number of points brands must achieve by 2023 to participate in fashion weeks.

In addition, Copenhagen Fashion Week initiated dialogues with the local trade fairs to strive towards a closer alignment of its sustainability goals. The trade fair Ciff has committed to initiating a process of adopting the 2023 sustainability requirements “in a way that resonates with and creates value for their own platform as a fashion fair, their business model and their exhibitors and buyers,” explained fashion week organisers.

This move means that Ciff, as of 2023, will require brands to comply with Copenhagen Fashion Week’s minimum standards and obtain the minimum score needed in order to exhibit.

Copenhagen Fashion Week to push forward with its sustainability plan

The aim of the Sustainability Action Plan 2020-2022: Reinventing Copenhagen Fashion Week, announced last year was to reduce not only its impact on the environment but also to innovate its business model and inspire and encourage an acceleration of industry change.

At the press conference announcing the action plan, Thorsmark said: “All industry players - including fashion weeks - have to be accountable for their actions and be willing to change the way business is done. The timeframe for averting the devastating effects of climate change on the planet and people is less than a decade, and we’re already witnessing its catastrophic impacts today. Put simply, there can be no status quo.”

Some of the key issues were to reduce its climate impact by 50 percent, rethink waste systems in all aspects of event production, with zero waste as the goal by 2022, as well as implement a new set of sustainability standards to push the industry towards what it calls “comprehensive change”.

To address its climate impact, especially in relation to reducing its global greenhouse gas emission, Copenhagen Fashion Week explains that it has collaborated with Climaider, a certified gold standard carbon offset provider, to continue measuring, reducing and counteracting our CO2 emissions.

The August 2020 fashion week emitted 22.38 tonnes of CO2, representing a 50 percent decrease in our baseline of 45 tonnes of CO2, measured at the August 2019 edition. It did note that its emissions naturally went down in 2020 due to low international travel, as well as both fewer and smaller physical events and that once the pandemic is over it will make a commitment to reducing its impact.

Looking ahead the report states that an important focus for 2021 will be to push for wider industry adoption of its 2023 sustainability requirements. The ambitious aim will be to see these standards rolled out “more broadly” in the fashion industry in Denmark and as part of other key global platforms.

“In other words, we will strive to gather more industry actors around the same sustainability vision and a similar framework and methodology for creating change,” adds Copenhagen Fashion Week.

In addition, Copenhagen Fashion Week will support brands in executing zero-waste show practices and pursuing partnerships with green venues. The organisation is also looking to add targets on racism and sexism to its three-year action plan in 2021 and that they are in the process of updating the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter.

“The pandemic has increased the focus on shared learning, knowledge sharing and helping each other; it is our wish to harness this momentum even more in the future to foster change,” concluded Copenhagen Fashion Week.

The next edition of Copenhagen Fashion Week for autumn/winter 2021 takes place from February 2-4.

Image: courtesy of Copenhagen Fashion Week/Cecilie Bahnsen