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Corporate climate action is reaching its limits

This week, the fashion pack gathered for fashion week in London and Milanworld leaders and climate experts have arrived in New York for the UN General Assembly and Climate Week, a major summit dedicated to action to stop global warming.

Although extreme weather this summer left no doubt that action to combat global warming is more urgent than ever, just as evident were the political and financial pressures that have jeopardized action even as the world moves past critical tipping points.

Global climate summits are usually a major marketing opportunity for major corporations and investors to trumpet their commitment to environmental action – fashion is on – but this week’s announcements were decidedly light.

Instead, political speeches focused more on the war in Ukraine and related issues energy crisis than the climate. Spicy episode in which Trump-appointed head of the World Bank, David Malpass, was accused of climate denial (and subsequently denied). criticism surfaced again that the institution is not doing enough to combat climate change and hinted at the partisan divisions fueling a backlash against ethical investing.

And there were reports that there are a number of banks threatened to pull out of the major green alliance over the legal risks of tough targets to end investment in coal, oil and gas.

This is an illustration of the limits of voluntary commitment, and it applies as much to the fashion industry as it does to finance.

After all, it’s a a matter of business: Big corporations have yet to find a way to meet climate commitments and keep making more money.

This is not a new tension, but we are reaching a point.

Global emissions need peak by 2025 and decline rapidly thereafter to avoid the worst effects of climate change, according to the UN Climate Science Agency. Even then, global warming could still happen cause some climatic “tipping points”, a study published last week found.

And yet progress on fashion’s sustainable development goals is spotty, with industry leaders from Puma to Gucci owner Kering making only incremental progress, masking much wider inaction. BoF Sustainability Index found.

Many companies still have climate targets that are set against sales, which means they can continue to grow emissions along with profits and still meet targets. Even Patagonia, which made waves last week restructuring to direct all of its profits to climate actiongrapples with the tension between maintaining profitable growth and managing environmental impact.

Changing this dynamic, especially at the pace required to seriously tackle the climate crisis, is unlikely to be solved by business alone. Regulation can help by providing accountability and encouraging and subsidizing costly changes.

Consumer demand has also proven to be a healthy catalyst for action – especially as ad watchers begin to crack down to brands looking to capitalize on this interest without taking real action.

On the other hand, inflation and economic difficulties remain an immediate and distracting pressure ahead of the next major UN climate conference in Egypt in November.

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/sustainability/corporate-climate-commitments-voluntary-regulation-fashion-sustainability/ Corporate climate action is reaching its limits

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