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At Paris fashion week brands promise new sustainability initiatives, but is it enough?

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Fashion |OPINION

It could easily have been labeled the greenest week in fashion. It began with the Eco-Age Green Carpet Awards in Milan on Monday, the global climate protests that ensued on Tuesday and Wednesday, an announcement by Kering to be carbon neutral following Gucci’s promise to offset its catwalk show carbon footprint, to LVMH holding a press conference to tell the world they prefer “acts to pacts” and are committed to finding renewable energy sources, reduce emissions, and perhaps most tellingly, finding solutions that won’t hamper its economic growth.

The message that dawned on the world this week is that the fashion industry can never be reduced to have a zero environmental impact. Complicated supply chains, the majority of which are separate entities in different countries and continents who adhere to local laws and regulations, can never be 100 percent impact free.

It is impossible for fashion to have a zero impact

The demonstrations we saw this week from Brussels to San Francisco to the Pacific Islands, saw 185 countries participate to demand global action to cut greenhouse emissions and stabilize the climate. But rarely do protestors march outside the very companies in the supply chain funnel that leave the largest footprint, like dye houses, or warehouses storing ten of thousands of units of unsold stock. Of course parent companies bare the ultimately responsibility, but brands and retailers will address problem areas if consumers call them out and highlight the best practises they are preaching are not so green.

The good thing is that fashion conglomerates continue to be scrutinized but radical transparency is yet to unfold across the sector and for many it remains business as usual with ramped up marketing efforts to align with the global sustainability conversation. Steps towards winning back consumer trust as they increasingly research a brand’s background information before buying, is a step in the right direction.

But it takes a lot more for a brand to make a viable difference to climate change than listing the factory its goods are made in and country of origin on its sku’s, without tackling the harder question if its products are made with fair labour practices, sustainable sourcing of fabrics and trims and the environmental footprint it leaves.

The most powerful sustainability voice is that of the shopper’s wallet. Where you choose to spend and not spend will have the biggest impact of all.

Photo credit: Miguel Medina / AFP

Eco-Age Green Carpet Awards
zero impact