BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 26 Jan '19

Fashion industry leaders and HRH the Crown Princess of Denmark talk sustainability at the World Economic Forum

Key leaders in fashion and associated industries joined forces at Davos House during the World Economic Forum for an exclusive roundtable session on 23 January. It was hosted by Global Fashion Agenda; its patron, Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Denmark, participated alongside representatives from fashion houses including ASOS, H&M and Nike.

The meeting centred around Global Fashion Agenda’s launch of CEO Agenda 2019 for the fashion industry. It spells out the most crucial sustainability priorities for fashion industry leaders, offering them clear guidance on where to focus their sustainability efforts.

The conversation addressed how industries can play an active role in the acceleration of more sustainable practices and new business models.

‘It’s great to see so many stakeholders come together to exchange insights and determine our shared priorities. Doing so will safeguard our industry. It’s clear from our discussion that the transition towards a circular and climate-positive business model is key, and we must also ensure the jobs created along our value chains are fair and equal.’

HENDRIK ALPEN
Sustainability engagement manager, H&M

Fair labour and local skills

During the roundtable, participants stated that the most important issue is fair labour practices and establishing local knowledge and local skills. By creating sustainable localities and teaching small villages needed crafts, they said brands can help to create sustainable environments and positively impact communities. They emphasised that it is important for fashion brands to help educate young people and to find ways to collaborate with locals.

The participants agreed that transparency is key. A significant challenge that the industry faces is the lack of transparency within the supply chain. By candidly presenting business operations processes and making information about them openly accessible, they acknowledged that brands can build trust among consumers and the industry.

‘Hosting this event within the context of the globally recognised World Economic Forum is a pivotal moment. We urgently need to come together to implement industry-wide sustainable business practices and the roundtable created an open dialogue to facilitate industry-wide collaboration.’

EVA KRUSE
CEO and president, Global Fashion Agenda

Customer is king

Others noted importance of the consumer. ‘You have to keep going back to the consumer proposition’, said Seth Ellison, executive vice president and president, Europe, Levi Strauss & Co. ‘We don’t want to punish consumers for wanting to buy new products, but we want to lead them to a new place, and a new understanding of what exactly it means to consume in our world today.’

Political representatives stated that companies should be rewarded for their sustainability efforts. They said leaders must push politicians to agree to a global approach to taxes to allow the establishment of a fairer tax for businesses that are making positive transformations.

During the discussion, participants said fashion leaders must set out to achieve fair living wages across the supply chain. Factories are becoming more automated, but if management systems are built that are closely connected to the skills of workers, they will continue to learn and develop. When this occurs, wages can gradually increase in step with the improvement of skills as manufacturing becomes more automated.