Fashion Attendees At Cop27 Say Meaningful Targets And Greenwashing Are Key Concerns - Forbes

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Attendees photograph one another outside the main entrance on the first day of the UNFCCC COP 27 ... [+] climate conference on November 06, 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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The fashion industry has landed in Sharm El Sheikh for the 27th edition of the UN’s Conference of the Parties – better known as COP. The world’s leading climate change conference, which opened on 6th November and runs until 18th November, has become an increasingly important event in the fashion calendar as the industry grapples with its role in the climate crisis.

Alongside world leaders, fashion designers, global brands, suppliers, media and sustainable fashion activists are in attendance for exhibitions, panel discussions and news announcements that could impact the future of the industry.

Global Fashion Agenda, a non-profit fostering collaboration on sustainability, announced the launch of its Fashion Industry Target Consultation on day two of the conference. In partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the consultation aims to identify and converge the industry’s current targets for a more holistic and concrete approach to achieving net zero.

Federica Marchionni, CEO of Global Fashion Agenda said they would be hosting three events during COP27 and planned to attend many other sessions too: “We first launched our Global Fashion Summit (formerly Copenhagen Fashion Summit) during COP15 in 2009 because fashion was not on the official agenda at the time. Through our alliance with UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) and UNEP, we have been championing progress and working to ensure fashion has the prominent place that is deserved in the agenda. It is promising to see that there is a strong presence of fashion-focused discussions in this year’s programme.”

German online retailer Zalando has representatives in attendance. Christian James Smith, head of sustainability stakeholder engagement said: “Attending COP27 enables us to connect deeply with companies, NGOs and individuals working to address these impacts. Being there in-person helps to speed up our interactions and improve our understanding of the landscape. Being at COP27 will help us understand the various levers being pulled to address these challenges and the role that Zalando can play to further the agenda - whether that means finding the right partners or understanding the right signals we can establish to accelerate the adoption of better production and delivery methods."

Participants walk in the Green Zone during the COP27 climate summit at the Sharm El Sheikh ... [+] International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort, November 7, 2022. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images)

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COP’s presence in Egypt this year has opened up opportunities for local fashion designers too. Hadeer Shalaby, CEO and co-founder of Green Fashion, an Egyptian brand that creates garments from upcycled, sustainable, locally-produces and biodegradable materials as well as providing work for vulnerable women, is exhibiting in the event’s Green Zone. Shalaby said: “when Egypt was chosen to organize this event, I knew that this was my opportunity to attend and participate, so my participation in COP 27 means a lot to me as an environmentalist and means that my project is on the right track and that I can make a change.”

Shalaby hopes that this edition of COP will result in ambitious targets from fashion companies and policy changes: “I hope that major fashion makers make more commitments towards the transition to sustainable production patterns, design plans to support and finance brands that pursue sustainable patterns in production and raise awareness of sustainable consumption. I hope that countries will commit to forcing fashion manufacturers to gradually reduce the use of harmful chemicals in the dyeing process. There should be plans to protect tens of thousands of acres from deterioration annually by setting a maximum limit for cultivating the land with cotton per year.”

Muchaneta Kapfunde, a fashion technology consultant who will be hosting one of the fashion-themed panel discussions in the event’s innovation pavilion, said that the key themes of this year’s conference are greenwashing and sustainable materials.

She said: “I hope the fashion industry’s presence will be more than just political grandstanding. The fashion industry needs not to waste the opportunity to mobilize with world leaders, industry executives, and representatives who are there to discuss tangible measures that could tackle climate change. The UNFCCC has opened the door with the help of Climate KIC (an EU-funded climate change innovation initiative) to bring two main issues to the conversation; ‘greenwashing’ campaigns and the use of non-sustainable textiles.”

One of the companies showcasing its work in the area of sustainable materials during COP27 is German biomaterial company AMSilk. It will be participating in a panel discussion with innovators and UN representatives at Vision 2045 Summit, an event hosted alongside COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh. “The Vision 2045 Summit brings together industry leaders and pioneers from across the globe to discuss the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” AMSilk’s CEO Ulrich Scherbel explained. “A key theme for COP is to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization… Today, there is a great potential for smart biotech materials to substitute current fossil-based materials and create new and innovative applications for the fashion industry.”

Fashion’s firm presence at COP will be cause for optimism for the many organizations and individuals who have been raising awareness of the industry’s impact on the planet for many years. However, the industry must now use this platform to make more meaningful targets and find solutions to the greenwashing problems that have resulted from the mainstreaming of the conversation.

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