Carbon neutrality is in fashion

Published 19th September 2019 by Rachel Hunter
Gabriela Hearst’s carbon neutral fashion show. Photo by William Theisen, CEO EcoAct North America.

Luxury fashion brand Gucci last week announced that it will be making all operations, including those in its supply chain, carbon neutral. The news followed an industry first earlier in the week with designer Gabriela Hearst ensuring her entire New York show was carbon neutral, supported by EcoAct. The news coincided with global fashion season when established luxury and ready-to-wear brands and new designers showcase their fashion collections for the next season.

But this is more than just a fashion trend. Fashion designers and the companies that own these brands are taking carbon neutrality into the core of their operations by assessing the risk that climate change poses to the future of our planet. These companies recognize that while the global economy, and their own business models need to be on the path to net zero, taking responsibility for emissions that cannot be reduced by supporting projects in the developing world that reduce emissions and facilitate sustainable development makes sense.

The fashion industry – both luxury and fast fashion – has long been in the spotlight for its ethical business practices, from modern slavery to destroying unsold merchandise. With the urgent and vital need to address the climate crisis, increasingly that emphasis is on the contribution of garment and accessory production to greenhouse emissions and the environmental impact of production and use of clothes. 

Recently 32 fashion brands signed the Fashion Pact, a series of the global commitments created using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and science-based targets. The pact is built around three pillars: climate, oceans and biodiversity. It aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; address the use of single-use plastics; innovate on micro-fibre pollution created by washing synthetic materials; and increase use of fibres that do not impacts biodiversity and ecosystems. The companies committed to the pact are expected to meet targets and become net zero.

This industry wide movement led by some of the biggest brands in the world is a positive and welcome step in the right direction and helps raise the profile of the massive challenges we face globally in managing and adapting to the risks posed by climate change. 

Gabriela Hearst’s carbon neutral NYC fashion week show – an industry first

For her Spring Summer 2020 Womenswear Show, designer Gabriela Hearst worked with her production company to examine every necessary aspect of its production, design and installation process, in an effort to reduce the resulting carbon footprint to its very minimum.

Gabriela Hearst said about the first ever carbon neutral fashion show: I love what I do but I have to find ways that I’m not adding to the problem. I thought that this was the best thing that really engages me toward the show. If we don’t know our impact, we can’t reduce it. The goal is to set an industry standard.”

With the support of EcoAct, the emissions of the show are calculated and assessed. The overall carbon footprint offset with carbon credits from the Hifadhi-Livelihoods Project in Embu and Tharaka Nithi Counties of Kenya.

This project is financed and developed by The Livelihoods Fund in partnership with EcoAct and provides more efficient cookstoves to households in Kenya where access to energy is limited and the communities are dependent on local biomass from forests. The project is goes beyond reducing carbon, it’s about enhancing people’s lives. Cookstove efficiency reduces wood usage by 60%, which means time spent gathering wood is reduced from 12 hours to 5 hours weekly, impacting women and children primarily. Health is also improved by reducing the emissions of noxious gases in the home. Local people are trained to make the stoves and to manage and facilitate the project.

Carbon finance such as this is critical in facilitating sustainable development in areas of the world where traditional finance is often not available. This project is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, set up as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

William Theisen, CEO of EcoAct North America, “We applaud the signal Gabriela Hearst’s carbon neutral show is making in the fashion and apparel industry. Although there is a long way to go in this sector, it is clear that taking responsibility for environmental impacts is the right thing to do, but can also raise brand recognition above the rest.”


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