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Much work ahead to achieve sustainable fashion industry, says KPMG report

Much work remains to be done towards building a sustainable fashion industry according to a new report by KPMG, together with Fashion Summit and HSBC. 

For example, fewer than 15 per cent of participating companies were able to report their supply chain-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, vital in formulating better climate strategies. Measuring GHG emissions can be very complex, and may prove a challenge for many of the signatories, as supply chain data may be harder to access.

The report, called Sustainable Fashion: Committing to a Sustainable Future Through the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, was released to coincide with the start of last week’s Fashion Summit 2019 in Hong Kong, the largest sustainable fashion event in Asia. It includes reviews of publicly available information on the sustainability performance of the 43 signatories of the UN’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, including their sustainability reports and corporate websites.

Among the key findings was that consumer awareness of the issue still needs to be enhanced. The survey found that 60 per cent of retail brands have a sustainability section on their consumer websites, and 35 per cent have a sustainable product line. Some signatories also strive to raise consumer awareness of sustainability through their public disclosure and other channels. Of the signatories, 67 per cent have their sustainability data available in either their sustainability reports or annual reports, while 93 per cent have a sustainability section on their corporate website.

The Sustainable Fashion report states that for consumers to make responsible choices, they should be empowered by having easily accessible information about how products are made, the sources of the materials and their impact on the environment at the end of their life. It recommends that signatories look at creating a sustainability score or sustainability labelling system to encourage consumers to purchase sustainable fashion.

The report’s findings show that existing tools and standards should be leveraged, observing that much of the infrastructure is in place for the fashion industry to move towards a far greater embrace of sustainable practices. These include the establishment of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition in 2011 and its subsequent launch of the Higg Index, as well as Kering’s Environmental Profit & Loss (EP&L) account, amongst others.

Usage of these mechanisms, however, varies widely, from the 51 per cent reporting themselves as members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and as users of the Higg Index, to the less than one in 10 working with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

The industry has worked on developing these tools for many years, and the foundation has been set. Instead of looking for new measures to assess their impact, signatories should leverage these existing foundations to create a tangible impact.

“We applaud the organisations that have signed the Fashion Charter and their commitment to tackling climate change,” said KPMG China partner, business reporting and sustainability Pat Woo. 

“We are seeing increasing preference from major global investors directing the flow of capital towards companies that are taking proactive steps in this area. Their efforts will reap major tangible benefits going forward as these organisations continue to future-proof themselves.”

“Climate change is having an increasing impact across the world, as we have seen more frequent weather events in the past couple of years,” said Steering Committee of Fashion Summit (HK) chairman Felix Chung. “This is a major societal issue, and proactive measures taken by the signatories of the Fashion Charter are most needed. At the Fashion Summit, we continue to make our industry’s sustainability efforts the key focus, aiming to support and facilitate more collaborative efforts, and doing our part in protecting the environment for future generations.”

“As a leading global trade bank, HSBC has a unique role to play in supporting a shift to sustainability in global supply chains,” said HSBC head of corporate sustainability Asia Pacific Zhang Huifeng. 

“HSBC is one of the supporting organisations of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, and we are committed to working collectively with other signatories to contribute to the realisation of the Charter. HSBC firmly believes that the implementation of a successful sustainable development agenda requires collaboration between sectors and other stakeholders, enabling companies to move the world towards a sustainable and inclusive development path.”

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