Sustainability: Where fashion is heading in 2022

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This year, fashion committed to sustainability at COP26, material innovation accelerated and interest in circularity sparked. More importantly, a growing awareness has emerged that climate change is as much about equity as it is about carbon coming in 2022.

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Takeaway fashion from COP26

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is over, with important lessons for the fashion industry on policy change, sourcing and digital transparency.

“Climate change is not about emissions. It is a system that has benefited some at the expense of the vast majority of people on the planet and the planet itself, ”said Muhannad Malas, senior climate activist for the Stand.earth advocacy group.

Despite all its sustainability efforts, fashion has made little tangible progress this year. Emissions are still on the rise, circularity remains elusive, next-generation fabrics have yet to scale, and countless garment workers are starving. Actions speak louder than words, but even so, for the fashion industry, conversation intensification and urgency are a positive sign. Critics are encouraged that some of the biggest brands and top executives are talking about end-of-life impacts and strategizing on biodiversity, reflecting a shift in mindset as new strategies are developed for the coming year.

“The past 12 months have shown me that mindset and decision-making structures are changing,” says Rebecca Burgess, executive director of the nonprofit Fibershed. Alarm bells are ringing, he says, triggering significant action.

To date, the progress of fashion sustainability has been slow because it was designed to be, changing only around the edges, proponents say. The sea change is now part of the conversation, more than ever. Eliminating fossil fuels and raising worker wages, which require a systemic transformation of both industry infrastructure and business models, rise to the top of the list of experts as key priorities to address next year. They also rank among the main sustainability issues that have emerged from fashion this year.

Fossil fuels and low wages: the enablers of fashion

Decarbonising the fashion supply chain is a complicated challenge, but the level of difficulty does not make the need any less urgent. If the industry is actually dedicated to achieving it, the process will have to be radical enough to inherently address some of the other fashion issues along the way, such as waste, overproduction, and the overuse of hazardous chemicals.

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