This month in Paris, 195 countries were in talks to keep global warming below 2 °C. France hosted the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11) for two long weeks. The major expected outcome of this conference was to end with an international agreement to keep global warming below a certain level, and give industrialized nations the major part of responsibility for combating climate change.
So, what could this mean for mass producers in the textile industry like India or China? Knowing that apparel is one of the most polluting industries in this world, it could mean a lot. In terms of production, developing countries have come to a consensus to reduce green gas emissions, which are generated by human activity. For big fashion corporations and giant retailers, sustainability will be a recurrent discourse. A discourse that will mostly revolve around apparel operations and production according to the new COP21 agreement’s standards, in the future.
Swedish fashion retailer H&M has already set themselves the challenge to be more sustainable. Karl-Johan Persson, H&M’s CEO says: “At H&M, we have set ourselves the challenge of ultimately making fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable. We want to help people express their personality and feel proud of what they wear. I’m very excited to see the progress we’ve made so far and how this will help us to make you an even better offer – and create a more sustainable fashion future”. In an era where fast fashion is stronger than ever, this could mean a better environment with continued growth. Iconic brand Levi has already been involved in the discourse about sustainability as well. At Levi Strauss company, they like to say that they strive for sustainable change for profits. Levi’s sustainable approach has already been demonstrated with their “Water<Less” and “Waste<Less” collection. There is definitely a greater challenge for bigger retailers than luxury houses or traditional designers in terms of environment and safety. This past decade, workers’ condition in factories was more transparent. An additional challenge for fashion corporations will also be to provide a safer working environment for their employees, while generating products.
More importantly, what could this agreement finally mean to the whole value chain for the fashion industry? Having an official global agreement by the UN may incite greater cooperation among nations and international companies. This could also involve greater efforts from cotton processors and textile merchants to consumers all around the world.