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Fashion industry's sustainability progress slows

Alice Ierace
07 May 2019

Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) have just released the 2019 update of Pulse of the Fashion Industry, an annual assessment of the fashion industry's environmental and social performance in terms of the Pulse Score.

The 2019 update reveals that the pace of sustainability progress in the fashion industry has slowed by a third in the past year and is not moving fast enough to counterbalance the harmful impact of the fashion industry's rapid growth. Unless the current trend of the Pulse Score improves, fashion will continue to be a net contributor to climate change, increasing the risk that the Paris Agreement's objective of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius during the remainder of this century will not be achieved.

Projections suggest that by 2030 the global apparel and footwear industry will have grown by 81%, to 102 million tons, exerting an unprecedented strain on planetary resources. If the industry's Pulse Score-a metric of sustainability-remains on its current trajectory, the gap between industry output and Pulse Score will continue to widen, and the harmful consequences of increased production will become even more challenging to overcome.

The measurement suggests that the fashion industry has made some progress toward better social and environmental performance over the past year, but at a slower rate than in previous years. The improvement was due mainly to rapid progress among brands that are in the early stages of their sustainability journey and have put in place measures in strategy, governance and target setting.

Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2019 Update

The report also shows how awareness of environmental and social practices is growing among consumers. In fact, more than a third of surveyed consumers reported they have switched from their preferred brand to another for reasons related to responsible practices. However, the 2019 data revealed that sustainability is still far from being a key consideration in purchasing decisions. 

Morten Lehmann, chief sustainability officer at Global Fashion Agenda, says: "These latest findings emphasise the dire need for the whole industry to join the race and accelerate change now. Scaling existing solutions will depend on leadership from brands. However, some transformational changes will take cooperation among policy makers and stakeholders across the entire value chain."

Amina Razvi, interim executive director at Sustainable Apparel Coalition, added: "To achieve the transformational change required, we must collaborate and make meaningful commitments to end our industry's damaging practices. We need to scale our efforts to assess impacts through a common framework and increase improvements in sustainability performance globally."


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