Luxury designer reveals new UN charter at fashion conference in UK, ahead of official launch at COP24 next week
Leading fashion designer Stella McCartney has thrown her weight behind a new sustainability charter from the UN which aims to promote low-carbon production methods and cut waste in the fashion industry.
McCartney, who is already heavily involved in the circular fashion movement via her work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said she hoped the new charter would encourage fashion leaders to work together to make their industry greener.
"Everything is at stake," said McCartney, speaking at the Business of Fashion's Voices summit last week. "It's really about bringing everyone together as an industry. Instead of having a few people talk about it, it's about having everyone talk about it."
The UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action will officially launch at COP24 in Poland on December 10, and is reported to have won backing from several major 'fast fashion' brands.
Instigated by the UN climate change secretariat, it will include 16 commitments for signatories to adhere to, covering sustainable sourcing, design, and manufacturing. It aims to help scale up low-carbon production methods, in a bid to bring down the cost of greener approaches and broaden access to cleaner technologies and materials across the industry.
McCartney also used her appearance at the Voices summit to launch Stella McCartney Cares Green, an environmental branch to her charity arm. As well as providing information for fashion designers on environmental best practices, McCartney said the new initiative would provide incentives for young sustainable designers, and funding for lawyers and NGOs to encourage policy change.
In other news from the Voices summit, Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower in the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, announced he is to join fashion retail giant H&M as its director of research.
Wylie said he will be working with the retailer's head of Artificial Intelligence Arti Zeighami to consider how AI can help improve H&M's sustainability profile, for example by better matching production with consumer demand to cut waste.
The news comes at a time of intense scrutiny for the fashion industry in the UK, as MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee continued this week with their high-profile investigation into the environmental impacts of fast fashion.
MPs on the Committee have been heavily critical of fashion brands producing clothes of poor quality that are not built to last, which they claim are fuelling a culture of throwaway fashion. A report from the Committee has revealed UK customers purchase an average of 26.7kg of new clothing each every year - more than any other country in mainland Europe.
Speaking at a Committee hearing this week, ASOS chief executive Nick Beighton said ASOS is already shifting its business model to become more circular in response to consumer demand.
"Some years ago, we realised what is blindingly obvious now - that unless we close the loop on sustainability, demonstrate responsible behaviour and actually act on our claims, they will buy less from us," Beighton said. "We are commercially incentivised to get this right."
However, some of his peers at other leading online fashion brands were left visibly non-plussed when asked about the steps they were taking to reduce their environmental impact and reduce waste. It is clear the new UN initiative has a long way to go if it is to reach every corner of an industry that is still struggling to tackle its soaring environmental footprint.
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