Over the past two weeks, several major fashion companies have seized COP15, the United Nations Conference on Biological Diversity taking place in Montreal, to highlight their commitments to tackling the threat that human activity poses to the natural world, as one million species of plants and animals face possible. extermination.
H&M Group, Burberry, Kering and Zara owner Inditex have emphasized a campaign to make biodiversity a mandatory disclosure for large companies. Kering also invited luxury fashion and beauty companies – starting with the L’Occitane Group – to join the newly launched Climate for Nature Fund, an investment vehicle that aims to mobilize €300 million (about $320 million) to finance nature restoration and community projects, while LVMH strengthened its ties with UNESCO and announced a new program to restore forest cover in the Amazon with non-profit Reforest’Action.
Conservation experts say COP15 is an opportunity to define ambitions to restore and protect nature for the next decade, and establish a framework similar to what the historic 2015 Paris Agreement did for climate targets.
Although conservation is more difficult to define and measure than greenhouse gas emissions, wildlife populations saw an average decline of 69 percent between 1970 and 2018, and one million plants and animals now face the threat of extinction, according to a report published in October by WWF – World nature fund. It’s a problem for the planet. But it also has direct consequences for fashion companies, which need to strengthen access to natural resources and strengthen supply chains.
In the absence of clearly defined frameworks and science-based targets, both fashion companies and NGOs rally around buzzwords such as ‘nature-positive’, but tackling the problem seriously will require reforms at the heart of how fashion companies operate. And as it is now, there is a big gap between commitments and actions.
Fashion companies are largely still at the road-mapping and benchmarking stage and have yet to define and implement measures to tackle the problem. The G7 Fashion Pact, an alliance of more than 200 major fashion brands, made biodiversity one of its three main pillars when it announced targets in October 2020. But ambitions in this area are limited to building biodiversity strategies, in line with science-based targets , and commit to deforestation-free materials by 2025.
The fashion industry’s biodiversity ambitions must be greater and they must be baked into the way it manages the supply chains it depends on for natural resource extraction and production.
It’s evidence that brands are taking a more thoughtful approach to nature-based initiatives, and not just planting acres of trees in an attempt to offset negative impacts on the other side of the world. Kering’s nature fund, for example, will primarily focus on projects in countries where participating companies source their raw materials.
Meanwhile, concepts such as regenerative agriculture, which helps restore soil health, increases carbon sequestration and encourages biodiversity, have piqued the interest of more and more major fashion companies, this year’s BoF Sustainability Index found. But only three of the 30 companies surveyed indicate a strategy to transform their supply chains.
That requires a level of traceability down to raw material suppliers that fashion companies have not yet mastered, but some experts say this should not prevent action.
“If you don’t know where your supply base is, you can still shop,” said Liesl Truscott, director of industry responsibility and insights at the non-profit Textile Exchange. “Let’s not wait to have full traceability. We know where the hotspots are.”