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Walking the Talk
New Guide Helps Fashion Brands Take Meaningful, Measurable Action to Protect Nature

The report provides a critical introduction for the fashion, textile and apparel industry to setting measurable, science-based targets for nature; and will act as a blueprint for other industries to follow suit.

A landmark report from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), the Fashion Pact and Conservation International maps out how the fashion, textile and apparel industry can implement the first science-based targets for nature.

Launched at the recent Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen, Raising the ambition for nature: A primer on the first science-based targets for nature for the fashion, apparel, and textile sector is part of a two-year project called Transforming the Fashion Sector With Nature, funded by the Global Environment Facility. It provides a critical introduction for the fashion, textile and apparel industry on how to set measurable nature targets.

The authors, in collaboration with the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) and Textile Exchange, hope their work will act as a blueprint for other industries to take meaningful action on nature.

“We are pleased to have been able to work with the Fashion Pact and Conservation International to develop the first-ever guide to SBTN targets for a specific industry and how they might be implemented,” says Eliot Whittington, Chief Systems Change Officer at CISL. “This primer offers the fashion sector clear guidance on what it needs to do — an essential tool for one of the industries most reliant on and engaged with natural systems. We hope this paves the way for a transformation of the fashion, textiles and apparel industry and that other sectors will swiftly follow suit.”

Textile production makes up 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and is extremely dependent on nature for raw materials and water.

Globally, the US$1.5 trillion-a-year industry plays a substantial role in nature loss — from cotton, leather and polyester production all the way to the impact of paper packaging on forestry. Scientists also estimate that 35 percent of the microplastics found in oceans can be traced to textiles, making them the largest source of microplastic pollution. There has also been unprecedented growth in the sector over the past decades, with clothing production doubling between 2000 and 2014. It is anticipated to grow to US$2 trillion per year by 2027 — meaning impacts and dependencies on nature will only increase, further highlighting the need for industry action.

As awareness of the critical role of biodiversity — and the enormous risks to business and the economy of continuing to destroy it — have grown in recent years, a number of tools and technologies have emerged aimed at helping companies understand and address their impacts on the natural world; but there had yet to be any standardization. Released in May, SBTN’s new science-based targets for nature complement existing, science-based climate targets by allowing companies to take holistic action to address their impacts in the face of mounting environmental and social crises. Upon release, 17 global companies — including luxury fashion houses Kering and LVMH — committed to be among the first to set science-based targets for nature before the end of this year.

Launched by French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 Summit in 2019, The Fashion Pact represents one-third of the global fashion industry and is committed to mitigating the impact of climate change, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. The initiative brings together CEOs and senior leaders to accelerate joint action across the value chain.

“Thanks to the SBTN program, companies now have the chance of aligning biodiversity strategies with the latest available science and guidelines,” says H&M CEO and Fashion Pact co-chair Helena Helmersson. “As part of the pilot, we will continue providing industry-wide input to the development of the SBTN guidance to reduce the impact of our entire sector, and we hope this work will inspire many others to follow. The Fashion Pact will continue playing an important role in bringing attention to challenges where we can come together and accelerating change in the industry.”

The report includes an introduction to the science-based targets for nature, an illustrative case study with guidance to show how targets are calculated and set, and actions companies can take now to address nature loss.

“Textile Exchange welcomes the publication of this report, to provide much-needed guidance on how companies in our industry can get started with Science-Based Targets for Nature," says Beth Jensen, Climate+ Impact Director at Textile Exchange. "This report complements the forthcoming Biodiversity Landscape Analysis report — which is also a collaboration among Textile Exchange, The Fashion Pact and Conservation International — and will provide a reference point on foundational biodiversity concepts and frameworks and what they really mean for our industry. Between these two reports, brands and other industry stakeholders will be equipped with initial guidance to begin integrating biodiversity into their strategies.”

Raising the ambition for nature lays out actions companies can take now to help address practices that harm nature, including:

“In the midst of an ecological crisis, it is more vital than ever for companies to shift to regenerative business models which value, protect and restore nature,” says Paul Polman, business leader, co-chair and co-founder of The Fashion Pact. “It’s time for the fashion, textile and apparel industry to play its part in building a nature-positive economy; and the CEOs and companies who move without delay will reap the benefits — and so will their investors. This primer illuminates the path to setting measurable biodiversity targets and taking the action needed to deliver them."