Fashion must be change influencer say speakers at BFC's Positive Fashion Forum
The opening sessions of the British Fashion Council’s flagship Institute of Positive Fashion Forum on Thursday acted as giant ‘recruitment’ campaign, urging fashion companies to get involved in the fight against climate change and the need to create a much more sustainable — and ethical — fashion industry globally.
A succession of speakers emphasised the importance of fashion companies embracing new approaches because, as Ovais Sarmad of the United Nation Climate Change Secretariat told BFC chief Caroline Rush: “Government’s are not doing enough”.
He said the fashion industry is “a huge influencer. You reach billions out there in terms of what you do, the messages you convey” and that means fashion can influence other industries to take positive action.
Declaring himself to be an optimist, he nonetheless said that change is a must and “business as usual is an investment plan in failure over the long term and no longer an option. We need to see private sector fashion companies make a true systemic change in the narrative, the actions and the supply chains. Climate change is not a trend, it’s real, it’s an emergency”. He added that “we have around eight years, until the end of this decade” to really make an impact and avoid the emergency getting worse.
Prince Charles had also emphasised the same points, saying that fashion may be “a value contributor to the global economy, [but] it is, at the same time, damaging our planet through non-sustainable production processes, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. The United Kingdom alone sends 350,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill each year”.
Meanwhile, Alok Sharma, the MP who’s currently serving as President of COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, said that one key to making change happen is for sustainability to be seen as the norm, “not only for the sake of the planet but for your bottom line too. If you do not take action now, you risk being left behind”.
He stressed that consumers are increasingly concerned about the environment, which means it makes commercial sense for fashion to respond to their concerns.
But also referencing Ovais Sarmad’s point about fashion’s influencer status, he said that once the “critical mass of firms have change their ways of working, entire industries will shift. The default of clean ways of working will rapidly become the norm. Let’s get sustainability sitting alongside tartan and tweed as one of the quintessential features of British fashion”.
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