The Fashion Pact, an initiative launched four years ago with the aim of driving environmental change in the fashion industry, is now grappling with the departure of several influential members, coinciding with H&M's ascension to a prominent position within the coalition.
Renowned luxury retailers Hermès and Selfridges have recently withdrawn their participation, joining Stella McCartney in her discreet exit. It is thought the coalition's limited progress as the primary reason for their departure. According to the Business of Fashion, the Fashion Pact has only managed to execute a pilot project and preliminary analysis programs thus far. In contrast, new members such as Asics, Chloe, and J. Crew Group continue to join. The organisation recently announced the appointment of Helena Helmersson, CEO of H&M, as co-chair, replacing François-Henri Pinault of Kering who's three-year tenure has ended.
Presently encompassing over 200 brands, the Fashion Pact seeks to attain sustainability objectives that include the restoration of biodiversity, preservation of oceans, and achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The journey towards these goals has proven to be more arduous than initially anticipated, particularly considering that global fashion companies produce over 100 billion garments annually. H&M, for instance, manufactures a staggering 3 billion garments per year, constituting approximately three percent of global production. Additionally, reports indicate that H&M is sitting on an inventory of 4.3 billion dollars of unsold garments.
A significant portion of the pact's members have failed to fulfill their commitments, said BoF's report, with nearly 40 percent neglecting to establish science-based targets for emissions reduction. In its mission, the Fashion Pact aims to achieve renewable energy self-sufficiency by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. It has also implemented a virtual collective energy purchase agreement to encourage the use of renewable energy and is currently developing a biodiversity benchmark to assess companies' impact on fauna and flora.
Slowing growth versus emissions reduction
Many environmentalists remain critical of the fashion industry's relentless growth and rate of garment production. With the burgeoning middle classes in India, China, and Africa, the consumption of fast fashion is projected to soar. Retailers such as H&M are hesitant to embrace measures that may curtail output or impact profitability, instead opting to invest in circularity, carbon neutrality, sustainable fabrics and recycling models.
Brands must reassess their businesses to disentangle growth from volume and recognise the true environmental consequences of their operations, beyond mere financial implications. Considering the staggering amount of 253 tons of textile waste deposited in landfills daily, along with the consumption of 2,700 and 7,000 liters of water required to produce a single t-shirt or pair of jeans, it becomes apparent that the global companies aligned with the Fashion Pact are reaping significant profits while in the business of driving high product turnover.
Unsurprisingly, no CEO is eager to witness a decline in their bottom line.