Photographed by William Lords
This is the month we have all been waiting for, as world leaders and organizations from all over the world met in Glasgow for the COP26 summit to decide our fate.
Why is this the only thing we should be talking about? Well, let’s start with the earth and its ecosystems, because that is where we must begin all our conversations. We are in a dual crisis: a climate and a nature crisis. As UN secretary-general António Guterres put it so well, this is code red for humanity.
Alberto Candiani, president of Candiani Denim, inspecting spools of cotton
In ecology there exists the concept of the sliding baseline. It’s a tragic term coined by the oceanographer Callum Roberts. Every generation takes their current ecological circumstances as their reality. They don’t know that they should enquire about the birds and the butterflies and the flowers that were there before but are now lost. Each generation inherits a more degraded version of nature. This speeds up. Eventually we are left with nothing.
The fashion and textile industry is an ecosystem too. It has been consistently degraded until we can’t remember how much we’ve lost. Occasionally we get glimpses, and we remember that this could and should be an ecosystem of producers, designers, and manufacturers, working within the limits of nature. We are reminded that human livelihoods and social sustainability are as important as technical plans to decarbonize. But most of the time we accept a degraded and degrading system as reality.
Make the Label Count
What are the solutions? From supporting young leaders or emerging designers to researching new business models or ways to make our clothes less polluting, while also insisting on living wages and social justice across the supply chain, each month I try to give you a glimpse of what our sustainable fashionscape could look like. And this month I would like to stress how important it is that we get educated about the clothes we wear, starting from the fibers our clothes are made of. We have long argued that people who buy fashion – I do not like the term consumers, as it is reductive – should have more information and be more strongly connected to the garments they buy. Labelling is part of preventing that slide into complacency. Done right, it could be much more. Through regenerative agriculture and better science about the production of natural fibers, we should be able to reflect this ambition with labels. Fashion doesn’t have a labelling system like food, and this is why, last month, I supported the launch of a campaign called Make the Label Count, because we really can, but only if we base all the underpinning methodology on science – real, fact-based evidence.
Kantamanto Market in Accra, Ghana, where tons of disposed fast fashion ends up
We are in danger of doing the exact opposite. Today, the pressure is on building that label on a base of misinformation and skewed science and, at this point, it would be unforgivable. It could potentially unleash billions more items made of non-biodegradable petrochemical plastic polymers onto a patchy global waste system that is already unable to cope. We must correct course, and we must do it now. We have seen poor, incomplete, and skewed science promising the world solutions before. We all remember the distorted information used in the automotive emissions scandal and in the case of green biofuels. These are not just ugly chapters, they double the workload elsewhere. It can take a generation to get back on course. We do not have the time. There is an epidemic of greenwashing in our industry. Overclaims on sustainability are damaging all of us because we will simply fail to deliver on the cuts we need to ensure a liveable planet. We need to check where our clothes are coming from, who made them, what they are made of, and if the claims are actually true. We must insist that brands do better and are more transparent with their processes.
This is what the science tells us. We don’t negotiate with the science, we don’t distort the science, we just use it to form our pathway. We need to use cutting-edge science as our mandate; innovation as our tool; and knowledge as our superpower. Remember, actual sustainability is simple. It’s just a fancy word for change. And I fundamentally believe that not only must this change come from each one of us, but that, as citizens, we must wear our superhero clothes well.
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Originally published on November issue of Vogue Arabia
Photographed by William Lords
Riccardo Tisci at Shotover House in Wheatley, Oxfordshire, UK
Burberry announces today that it pledges to become the first Climate Positive luxury brand by 2040. This development follows the house’s original pledge to be net-zero by 2040. “I have always had a very deep, emotional connection to nature,” states Riccardo Tisci, chief creative officer at Burberry. “It has a power and a purity that gives you a sense of coming back to yourself and of what is really important in life. I am so proud that as a company we are making these inspiring steps to protect our beautiful planet and the future for our next generations.”
Burberry, a British house founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry and which holds two Royal Warrants (1955 and 1990), commits to cutting emissions across its extended supply chain by 46% by 2030 and developing projects which support others in their respective carbon journeys. It also announces its support for the Fashion Avengers, a coalition of global fashion organizations that have come together to inspire action towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Burberry VP of Corporate Responsibility Pamela Batty discuses the pledge with Vogue Arabia
What does “climate positive” actually mean?Becoming Climate Positive means going one step further than our existing 2040 net-zero pledge. To achieve this, we will not only work to reduce emissions within our own value chain, but we will also invest in initiatives and projects that support wider climate change efforts beyond our business – including programs that protect and restore natural ecosystems that remove carbon from the atmosphere – which we hope will have a lasting positive environmental impact for future generations.
Can you list some of the major challenges that will make this a 19-year process?There are several challenges associated with reaching Climate Positive. It requires real system change, but this can be solved by collective action and industry collaboration, which is why we’re calling on the rest of the industry to join us in accelerating our shared efforts. We’ll also focus on supporting the many businesses in our supply chain who will be essential to what we’re trying to achieve, and constantly stepping up how we measure and report on our progress.
Finally, it’s crucial that we continue to adapt to what our customers want and expect from us, all while continuing to meet our targets. We see this as an opportunity for innovation and creativity: to find new ways to produce items our customers love while also protecting the planet.
What is the Burberry Regeneration Fund?The Burberry Regeneration Fund was set up in 2020 to support a number of carbon offsetting and insetting projects, which enable us to store carbon and promote biodiversity, facilitate the restoration of ecosystems and support the livelihoods of local producers. Rather than simply purchasing offsets to cancel out our impact, we invest in insetting projects, reducing our emissions and storing carbon at source in our own supply chain.
For our inaugural project, we are partnering with PUR Project to design and implement regenerative agricultural practices with its wool producers in Australia. The project works at farm level to improve carbon capture in soils, improve watershed and soil health and promote biodiverse habitats.
You have stated that this is a bold new standard for luxury. Does this mean that no other luxury brand has a project on par?To our knowledge, we’re the only luxury fashion brand to have set ourselves a climate positive and net zero target by 2040. Our hope is that following our pledge, others in the industry will feel inspired to follow suit and take action to decarbonize the industry and align with the Paris Agreement. That’s why we’re active in several networks which aim to drive bolder and faster progress – like the UNFCCC’s Fashion Charter, the G7 Fashion pact, and the UN Race to Zero.
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