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Trailblazing sustainability initiatives unveiled at Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2019

Alice Ierace
17 May 2019

Fashion leaders, policymakers, NGOs, creative directors and innovators from across the globe convened at Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2019 to demand urgent action on sustainability in the fashion industry.Organised by Global Fashion Agenda, the event marked the Summit's 10th anniversary and provided a platform for companies to unveil new solutions, launch new commitments, collaborate with industry peers and partake in agenda-setting discussions.

The summit made it clear there is an urgency and united ambition to act now. The discussions and debates emphasised that companies must collaborate to rectify the harmful consequences of the fashion industry and combat the climate crisis, resource scarcity and social issues.

According to new findings in the Pulse of the Fashion industry 2019 update, if the current pace of change does not improve, fashion will continue to be a net contributor to climate change, and the Paris Agreement's objective of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius during the remainder of this century will not be achieved.

Eva Kruse, CEO and President of Global Fashion Agenda, said: "We can solve the planet's and the industry's biggest issues if we work together and take action now. We need bold leadership to accelerate the change and push policymakers to support this journey."

Photo by Ole Jensen/Getty Images for Copenhagen Fashion Summit

During the event, multiple companies chose to announce their new sustainability measures at the landmark event. Highlights include:

  • Nike announced its Circular Design Workbook to provide designers and product creators across the industry with a common language for circularity;
  • A new manifesto to deliver a circular economy in textiles. In a unique collaboration between EURATEX (European Apparel and Textile Confederation), Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI), Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), International Apparel Federation (IAF) and Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the manifesto calls on existing and forthcoming EU policymakers to rethink tools to establish a circular fashion system;
  • Kering announced a commitment that the group's Houses would only hire models aged over 18 to represent adults at their fashion shows and photo sessions as of 2020;
  • PVH Corp. released the evolution of its corporate responsibility strategy, Forward Fashion, a vision for the future that sets a new level of ambition and transparency, and reinforces its long-standing commitment to sustainable business;
  • Google revealed a partnership with Stella McCartney to measure the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

The summit included 78 high-level speakers who gave talks spanning executive leadership, design, manufacturing, policy and investment. Discussion topics ranged from climate change and circular economy to the power of creatives and how fashion can address overconsumption.

The top sustainability priorities outlined in the CEO Agenda guided the Summit programme and speakers included: HRH The Crown Princess of Demark; François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO, Kering; Emanuel Chirico, Chairman and CEO, PVH Corp.; Katharine Hamnett, CBE, designer and activist; Noel Kinder, Chief Sustainability Officer, Nike; Arizona Muse, model, ambassador and consultant; Connie Nielsen, actor and activist; Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M Group; and many more.

Photo by Lars Ronbog/Getty Images for Copenhagen Fashion Summit

A few of the inspirational thoughts from the event include:

Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M Group: "Sustainability needs to be a non-competitive area. Working with open source, using our experience and making sure we don't compete."

Emanuel Chirico, Chairman and CEO, PVH Corp: "Our industry is highly competitive. But there is a huge benefit to competing on the same playing field. We need to increase transparency as we move forward."

François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO, Kering: "Leaders have to put themselves in a vulnerable position and push to find solutions together. We need to forge the path together to change the paradigms."

John Hoke, Chief Design Officer, Nike: "We're endeavouring to create a common language around efforts in sustainability and a shared commitment in design."

Paul Polman, Chair, International Chamber of Commerce and The B Team: "To solve the issues we have today, we don't have to send people to Mars to find the answers. We have the answers; we only need the right leadership and our willpower."

This year's Summit also presented an even larger Innovation Forum, enabling small and large companies to meet with 50 sustainable solution providers - equipping them with the tools to turn words into meaningful actions. More than 600 facilitated business meetings between fashion companies and sustainable solution providers took place during the two days of the Summit.

The Innovation Forum exhibition area was expanded this year to incorporate the Design Studio, presented by Avery Dennison. Recognising the influence of the decisions creative directors make on design, materials and the environmental impact of products, the Design Studio exhibited a unique curation of solutions specifically tailored to the needs of creative directors and designers.

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