The Global Fashion Summit, the world’s largest fashion sustainability event, was held in Copenhagen from June 27-28. The event was attended by major conglomerates including LVMH and PVH, innovative startups such as Hilos and Circulose, charities like the Or Foundation, and prominent policymakers from Europe and the US.
The focus of this year’s panel was on sustainability regulations that the fashion industry should prepare for the future.
Currently, emissions from the garment industry account for approximately 2% of total global emissions and continue to rise. Despite the fact that many brands have voiced their commitment to sustainability, large quantities of new garments are produced each year, repeatedly causing deforestation, destruction of nature, and water pollution. In addition, the dead stock of unsold products is ultimately sent to landfills in developing countries. However, the human toll of the fashion industry’s low-cost, high-impact business model has not been properly quantified in a tangible way.
Sammy Oteng, senior community engagement manager at Ghana-based anti-fashion waste advocacy group the Or Foundation told the audience, “In Ghana, waste dumped in landfills is littering the beaches.” Waste thus transported to landfills can overflow into open sewers, causing flooding and creating a public health crisis. Landfills are also a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and when rainwater soaks into piles of old clothes, it can cause the spread of cholera, constantly threatening the public health of the citizens.
This situation is “absolutely unacceptable,” Europe’s environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said at the Global Fashion Summit, adding that European regulators will take action.
Antoine Arnault, LVMH’s head of image and environment, said “I think it is important that we aggregate the leaders of the luxury industry, to work together,” and called for a new sustainability agreement focused on luxury.
Arnault also said that LVMH is reaching out to its competitors to find the right standards and the right way to do business. Luxury brands do not produce as much clothing each year as the fast-fashion giants, but they still could very well have vast supply chains and huge carbon footprints.
LVMH has faced criticism in the past for its “poor sustainability practices and lack of transparency throughout its supply chain.” Arnault also refuted the company’s decision to “not participate” in Fashion Pact, an initiative launched four years ago that aims to promote environmental change throughout the industry.
“I know we were very much criticized a few years ago when we did not sign the famous Fashion Pact. Simply because it was, in our opinion, not the right thing to do at that time to be associated with the actors of fast fashion in this industry,”
“We felt that, without criticizing what they do, we were not doing the same thing. And we felt that we could not all be thrown in the same basket – we could not have the same objectives, and we didn’t have exactly the same mindset.”
The company has set a goal of reducing energy consumption by 10%, greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption by 11%, and Scope 3 emissions by 15% between October 2022 and October 2023. In addition, the company has committed to a commitment to “full traceability” of all raw materials by 2025.
Arnault also mentioned Stella McCartney, a brand owned by LVMH, saying that she is pushing the pace with her ultra-innovative approach to new materials. “She has all the solutions, we just need to be able to scale them and to make them work not only for smaller brands but for big maisons as well,”