Fast fashion lies: Will they really change their ways in a climate crisis?

Fast fashion lies: Will they really change their ways in a climate crisis?

By Anika Kozlowski, Assistant Professor of Fashion Design, Ethics and Sustainnability, School of Fashion, Ryerson University. First published on The Conversation.

Recently Zara introduced a sustainability pledge. But how can Zara ever be sustainable? As the largest fast-fashion retailer in the world, they produce around 450 million garments a year and release 500 new designs a week, about 20,000 a year. Zara’s fast-fashion model has been so successful it has inspired an entire industry to shift — churning out an unprecedented number of fashion garments year-round.

We live in an era of hyper-consumption in the middle of a climate crisis.

Clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014. The average consumer bought 60 per cent more clothing in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment half as long. Apparel consumption is projected to to rise by 63 per cent in the next 10 years. And less than one per cent of all clothing produced globally is recycled.

With production numbers like these, can any fast-fashion retailer claim sustainability?

The Role of Fashion Shoes and Trump's Trade War Soybean Fallout in Burning the Amazon

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One of the larges corporate responses to the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest has come from VF Corp. whose brands include Timberland, Vans and The North Face. The company issued a statement saying that it will discontinue using Brazilian leather until it has “the confidence and assurance that the materials used in our products do not contribute to environmental harm in the country.”

The Amazon, which spans eight countries and covers 40% of South America, is often referred to as "the planet's lungs" . Estimates show that nearly 20% of oxygen produced by the Earth's land comes from the Amazon rainforest. In addition, the Amazon puts an enormous amount of water into the atmosphere, regulating global temperatures as a result.

Environmentalists blame the policies of Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro for the 77% increase in fires in 2019, compared to one year ago. Even worse, half of the fires have been detected in the last month. A highly-controversial supporter of US president Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has encouraged farmers to burn the land in order to meet the growing demand for beef worldwide.

Overall, the demand for beef is increasing as the demand for leather shoes is decreasing, according to the LA Times, June 2018. Once a status symbol, leather shoes are often a symbol of anti-environmentalism, especially to young customers. Hides and other byproducts account for about 44% of the slaughtered animal’s weight but less than 10% of its value, according to government data.

As both corporate management and humans become more committed to sustainability issues and customers take ownership of being complicit with large corporations in environmental destruction, Vogue Business asks the provocative question: Is footware funding the burning of the Amazon?

Amazon rainforest from space, with red dots representing a fire or "thermal anomaly" NASA WORLDVIEW

Amazon rainforest from space, with red dots representing a fire or "thermal anomaly" NASA WORLDVIEW

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In recent years, companies such as LVMH, Kering and Nike have committed to sourcing only deforestation-free leather. (LVMH said it would provide €10 million in aid to fight the Amazon fires.) Traceabilty is a problem, writes Vogue Business, quoting Nathalie Walker at National Wildlife Federation.

“Many still think that because they buy ‘Italian leather’, that means it is not from Brazil, but that is untrue,” says Walker, director of tropical forests and agriculture at NWF. In fact, the Italian leather industry sources heavily from Brazilian suppliers like Frigorífico Redentor, a company that Amazon Watch describes as a “notorious illegal deforester in Brazil” and pegs as partly responsible for the recent surge to clear land. Grupo Bihl, Frigorífico Redentor’s parent company, did not respond to emails requesting comment.

Gucci parent Kering says that it now traces 80 percent of its skins to the slaughterhouse, with the goal of 100 percent traceable by 2025.

Not mentioned in the Vogue Business article is an answer to the key question AOC just asked and answered? Is the Amazon burning so that Brazil can meet the demand for soybeans, now that China has stopped buying soybeans from American farmers due to the trade war between the two nations.

There’s a surprising amount of writing on this topic in the past week. They include:

Fires in Amazon rainforest are being fuelled by US-China trade war, experts say SCMP

How Trump’s trade wars are fueling Amazon fires The Guardian

Trump’s Trade War Could Be Fueling Amazon Fires Bloomberg

Debunking Myths about the Impact of Elephants on Large Trees

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Debunking Myths about the Impact of Elephants on Large Trees

By Ross Harvey, Independent Economist; PhD Candidate, University of Cape Town. First published on The Conversation.

Elephants are often accused of being responsible for the unsustainable loss of large trees in protected areas. This is because they strip bark and break branches. They can also have a heavier impact through uprooting trees or snapping stems. They have forage preferences too. Marula, knobthorn and red bushwillow are among their favourites.

This type of behaviour has raised concerns over the effects of elephants on large trees in protected areas such as South Africa’s Kruger National Park. As a result, elephant populations have been managed to preserve trees and the environment in a static state.

Researchers Dr Michelle Henley and Robin Cook recently set out to establish whether elephants are in fact responsible for large tree mortality.

They did this by reviewing the science and evaluating how effective past strategies have been at mitigating large tree loss, given that such loss was typically attributed to high elephant densities. These strategies usually focused on controlling elephant numbers lethally, through either culling or hunting.

Chief Sustainability Officers Become Collaborative C-Suite Execs with Major Fashion Influence

Virginie-Helias-CSO Procter Gamble (top) Marie-Claire Daveau CSO Kering (bottom)

Virginie-Helias-CSO Procter Gamble (top) Marie-Claire Daveau CSO Kering (bottom)

Vogue Business profiles the growing influence of corporate Chief Sustainability Officers (CSO) including Kering’s CSO and head of international institutional affairs Marie-Claire Daveu, who sits on Karing’s 13-person executive committee; Virginie Helias, who actually created her top-level position at Procter & Gamble, by pitching it to the CEO; Nike’s CSO Noel Kinder, who reports to Nike COO, Eric Sprunk and Tom Berry, who is the global director of sustainable business at Farfetch.

The position of CSO could also be good for career advancement, writes VB. Tom Berry sees the role eventually becoming attached to the role of chief innovation or strategy officers.

“I’m convinced that in the coming decade, more CSOs will progress toward other C-suite roles,” says Daveu. “A successful CSO has to be a visionary thinker, a creative problem solver, an operational implementer and a collaborative leader.”

“It’s now seen as a transversal mission. It’s all about courageous leadership toward things that have not been done before, and about being able to develop an ambitious vision,” says Helias.

Article Take Aways

1) The Global Fashion Agenda’s recent Pulse of the Fashion Industry report concluded that fashion isn’t implementing sustainable solutions fast enough to offset the negative environmental and social impacts that come with their growth.

2) The vast range of skills associated with developing sustainable practices prompts the trends towards inter and intra-industry collaboration. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, which P&G joined with at least 40 companies in early 2019, is an example of the number of interests involved. 

“I’m spending more of my time thinking about how to collaborate externally,” says Kinder, who is now working through the Global Fashion Agenda and the United Nations. “H&M has been really ambitious externally, and Adidas — probably our closest competitor — does a nice job of collaborating. There has not been any reluctance to working [together] on big topics like waste or climate change. The challenges we face as an industry and as a species are bigger than any one brand.”

Noel Kinder NIKE COS

Noel Kinder NIKE COS

Forest Elephants Are Our Allies in the Fight Against Climate Change, Say Researchers

Forest Elephants Are Our Allies in the Fight Against Climate Change, Say Researchers

Forest elephant extinction would exacerbate climate change. That’s according to a new study in Nature Geoscience which links feeding by elephants with an increase in the amount of carbon that forests are able to store.

The bad news is that African forest elephants – smaller and more vulnerable relatives of the better known African bush elephant – are fast going extinct. If we allow their ongoing extermination to continue, we will be also worsening climate change. The good news is that if we protect and conserve these elephants, we will simultaneously fight climate change.

Prince Harry, Nat Geo, Steve Boyes Take Us 'Into The Okavango' A Fragile Ecosystem We Simply MUST Save

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Prince Harry, Nat Geo, Steve Boyes Take Us 'Into The Okavango' A Fragile Ecosystem We Simply MUST Save

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, discussed his ‘20 year connection’ with Angola and Botswana, posting a heartfelt Instagram message on Thursday. The tribute was created in conjunction with a fundraising event promoting National Geographic’s ‘Into The Okavango’ documentary film.

Harry explained that he is ‘grateful’ to see National Geographic partnering with both the Angolan government and The Halo Trust to promote the sustainable management of the Okavango Delta’s resources.