The UN climate conference (COP27)

Announcements and commitments for the textile sector

The twenty-seventh edition of the UN climate conference took place in November, in Egypt. Many environmental organizations have harshly criticized the results; the international media have focused the attention on the agreement between the states announced at the end of the Conference, which established a Compensation Fund for the nations most vulnerable to the damages attributed to climate change. However, a fund whose details still remain to be negotiated as no decision has been taken about who should pay, where this money will come from and which countries will be beneficiaries.


To better evaluate the outcomes, however, we need to look also at the private system’s participation in the Conference; businesses and NGOs have come to consider the COPs essential annual appointments for top managers’ agendas (and this is certainly a good thing). 


It must be said that the attendance of the textile and fashion industry, was not massive, and its contribution to the balance sheet of the conference was limited to three announcements concerning: the responsible procurement of raw materials, the defence of biodiversity in the production chains and a better quantitative definition of the sustainability objectives of the sector as a whole. These are initiatives which, as Vogue Business commented, extend or improve existing projects and models rather than introducing new strategies or launching new buzzwords. Let's see them in more detail.


During the conference, the NGO Canopy announced the commitment of a group of major brands, including H&M, Inditex, owner of Zara, Stella McCartney and the Kering group, to protect ancient and endangered forests from fibre extraction intended for the production of viscose, wood, paper and packaging cardboard used by the fashion industry. The brands have pledged to purchase over half a million tonnes of low-carbon, low-impact fibres for the production of both apparel and packaging.


The LVMH group announced its commitment to protect and restore biodiversity in collaboration with the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, an organization founded in 2020 by King Charles III, when he was still Prince of Wales, to develop sustainable cotton production in Africa with the techniques of regenerative agriculture. LVMH's grant will support regenerative agroforestry and land restoration projects by working with 500 cotton farmers to plant lumber or fruit trees alongside their cotton crops.


The third announcement came from Global Fashion Agenda, the non-profit association organizing the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which launched a consultation initiative together with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) aimed at finding convergence among the different objectives and initiatives, often ambitious but not coordinated, that brands and fashion companies have set individually and to identify shared sustainability paths by the sector as a whole.


In summary, the Conference’s achievements were less than impressive for the fashion industry. To quote Vogue Business again, "This year’s annual UN climate summit, COP27, has left sustainable fashion experts with more questions than answers ".