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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Raising the ambition for nature

28 June 2023 - A landmark report from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), the Fashion Pact and Conservation International maps out how the fashion, textile and apparel industry can implement the first science-based targets for nature. 

Raising the ambition for nature: A primer on the first science-based targets for nature for the fashion, apparel, and textile sector launches today at the Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen. The primer is part of a two-year project, Transforming the Fashion Sector With Nature, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It provides a critical introduction for the fashion, textile and apparel industry on how to set measurable nature targets.

The authors, in collaboration with the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) and Textile Exchange, hope their work will act as a blueprint for other industries to take meaningful action on nature.

Eliot Whittington, Chief Systems Change Officer, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership said:

“We are pleased to have been able to work with the Fashion Pact and Conservation International to develop the first ever guide to SBTN targets for a specific industry and how they might be implemented. This primer offers the fashion sector clear guidance on what it needs to do – an essential tool for one of the industries most reliant on and engaged with natural systems. We hope this paves the way for a transformation of the fashion, textiles and apparel industry and that other sectors will swiftly follow suit.”

GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez said:

“The Fashion Pact is using an innovative approach to address climate, biodiversity, and pollution challenges in the fashion and textile industries, and its guidance is very helpful. We welcome these efforts to ensure that the protection and sustainable use of nature is factored into planning across the supply chain, and we are pleased to see this actionable guidance to carry these priorities forward."

Textile production makes up 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) and is extremely dependent on nature for raw materials and water.

Globally, the US $1.5 trillion-a-year industry plays a substantial role in nature loss, from cotton, leather and polyester production all the way to the impact paper packaging has on forestry. Scientists also estimate that 35% of the microplastics found in oceans can be traced to textiles, making them the largest source of microplastic pollution. There has also been unprecedented growth in the sector over the past decades, with clothing production doubling between 2000 and 2014. It is anticipated to grow to US$2 trillion per year by 2027 – meaning impacts and dependencies on nature will only increase, further emphasising the need for industry to act.

Helena Helmersson, CEO of H&M and co-chair of The Fashion Pact said:

“Thanks to the SBTN program, companies now have the chance of aligning biodiversity strategies with the latest available science and guidelines. As part of the pilot, we will continue providing industry-wide input to the development of the SBTN guidance to reduce the impact of our entire sector, and we hope this work will inspire many others to follow. The Fashion Pact will continue playing an important role in bringing attention to challenges where we can come together and accelerating change in the industry.”

Launched by French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 Summit in 2019, The Fashion Pact represents one third of the global fashion industry and is committed to mitigating the impact of climate change, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. The initiative brings together CEOs and senior leaders to accelerate joint action across the value chain.

Eva von Alvensleben, Executive Director & Secretary General of The Fashion Pact said:

“Reaching net-zero is not possible without nature. And nature is fast declining. The fashion industry is uniquely dependent on natural ecosystems for its materials and operations. Understanding the industry’s environmental impacts and enabling businesses to take actionable and measurable strategies on nature are critical first steps to system change. Today, we are thrilled to announce the release of a fashion sector primer on the first science-based targets for nature, providing a way forward for the industry towards setting up biodiversity targets and showing that action is possible.”

The report includes an introduction to the science-based targets for nature, an illustrative case study with guidance to show how targets are calculated and set, and actions companies can take now to address nature loss. The methods to set science-based targets for nature published by the SBTN complement build upon science-based targets for climate published by Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Sebastian Troeng, Executive Vice President of Conservation Partnerships, Conservation International said:

“Our clothes tell a story, not only about the individual, but about our society: who we are, what we value, and what we aspire to be. For generations, fashion has spread revolutionary ideas across vast distances — about women’s empowerment, workplace equality, and now, environmental stewardship. This report represents a major stride forward for fashion, offering companies a science-based roadmap for determining what they take from nature — and how they can give back.”

Paul Polman, business leader, co-chair and co-founder of The Fashion Pact said: 

“In the midst of an ecological crisis, it is more vital than ever for companies to shift to regenerative business models which value, protect and restore nature. It’s time for the fashion, textile and apparel industry to play its part in building a nature-positive economy, and the CEOs and companies who move without delay will reap the benefits –and so will their investors. This primer illuminates the path to setting measurable biodiversity targets and taking the action needed to deliver them."

Beth Jensen, Climate+ Impact Director, Textile Exchange: 

“Textile Exchange welcomes the publication of this report, to provide much-needed guidance on how companies in our industry can get started with Science-Based Targets for Nature. This report complements the forthcoming Biodiversity Landscape Analysis report, which is also a collaboration among Textile Exchange, The Fashion Pact, and Conservation International and will provide a reference point on foundational biodiversity concepts and frameworks and what they really mean for our industry. Between these two reports, brands and other industry stakeholders will be equipped with initial guidance to begin integrating biodiversity into their strategies.”

Raising the ambition for nature: A primer on the first science-based targets for nature for the fashion, apparel, and textile sector lays out actions companies can take now to help address practices that harm nature, including:

  • Understanding their company’s impacts on nature by determining where they occur in the company’s operations and across the company’s value chain.
  • Understanding both the data they have access to and where the gaps exist. For example any data gaps between other businesses or suppliers they work with directly.
  • Starting to trace material sourcing back to the regional, farm or site level for one product or unit.
  • Leading the way, becoming part of the collaborative actions to address nature loss by joining groups like the SBTN Corporate Engagement Program and Business for Nature, among others, putting businesses at the forefront of developments and enabling them to contribute, test, learn and share their experiences with technical experts.

The primer is being launched at the Global Fashion Summit, held at the Copenhagen Concert Hall on 28 June 2023. The panel event runs from 9.40am to 10.10am CET. Tickets are available to buy online here – either in person or to stream online.

Read Raising the ambition for nature: A primer on the first science-based targets for nature for the fashion, apparel, and textile sector.

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