Fashion industry needs to pick up pace on climate goals, says report

People stand next to the window of a fashion boutique in a shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, on May 30, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

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PARIS — The 30 largest listed fashion firms must do more to hit Paris climate accord targets and UN sustainable development goals, although some are improving their social and environmental credentials, The Business of Fashion said in a report on Tuesday (May 31).

Fashion brands face increasing pressure from consumers, particularly younger ones, and governments to show they are doing better on environmental issues.

"You’ve got some front runners making small steps of progress but fundamentally the big picture is that the industry is wildly underperforming," Sarah Kent, chief sustainability correspondent for the trade industry publication The Business of Fashion told Reuters.

The Business of Fashion Sustainability Index 2022, in its second report, analysed publicly-disclosed information on environmental targets and policies, including workers rights, in three categories — luxury, sportswear and high street fashion.

Puma was ranked highest, scoring 49 points out of 100, followed Kering, last year's leader, Levi Strauss, H&M Group and Burberry.

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Puma welcomed the recognition but Chief Executive Bjorn Gulden said "much remains to be done". Kering's chief sustainability officer, Marie-Claire Daveu, said her company was "fully aware of the challenges ahead".

Levi Strauss, H&M and Burberry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"There are signs of progress but it's largely incremental," Kent said, adding that "we’re not seeing the big transformational leaps that we really do need to see over the next eight years" to meet Paris targets.

The report said companies could lose their cultural relevance and destroy long-term value by failing to act.

The companies overall scored highest for progress in reducing emissions out of the areas assessed in the report, but they scored worst in reducing waste.

"This is a really gnarly challenge for big executives at any fashion company," Kent said. "How do you figure out a way to satisfy your shareholders and demonstrate that you can continue to drive financial growth without driving growth in production, without continuing to make more and therefore extract more and therefore create more waste?" said Kent.

The report doubled the number of companies it covered to 15. "More companies meant worse outcomes, almost across the board," said Kent.