HOW TO COMMUNICATE THE EMERGENCY AND LEAD A CONVERSATION AND ACTION
It is a fact that we already surpassed the safe levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, the human race has never existed in a world with CO2 levels this high. CO2 levels are a clear indication of global warming. However, to stop and hopefully reverse global warming there is a combination of factors that are in play. We need to pay attention not only to living more sustainably and cutting our carbon footprint, but also to social justice and how to build a Just Transition. Now is the time to communicate and lead the conversation and action at a business level, learn the facts, educate ourselves – knowing that there has been misinformation – and inspiring others.
WHAT ARE WE FACING? THE FACTS
Ben Tolhurst emphasized that, despite many international climate conferences, CO2 emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate. Countries have debated how to combat climate change since the early 1990’s. These negotiations have produced several important accords, including the Kyoto Protocol and The Paris Agreement, but urgent action and ‘will’ is needed to create systemic shift to rapidly tackle the breakdown of climate, ecosystems, biodiversity, and society.
Governments generally agree on the science behind climate change but have diverged on who is most responsible and how to set emissions-reductions goals.
Ben also pointed out the effects of the crisis:
- More frequent extreme weather events
- Uninhabitable land caused by draught and floods
- Loss of biodiversity
- Food and water security that are forecast to effect over 3 billion people
Experts say the Paris Agreement is not enough to prevent the global average temperature from rising 1.5°C. When that happens, the world will suffer devastating consequences, such as heat waves and floods.
“This will continue to rise because 60 of the world’s biggest banks have just ploughed nearly four trillion dollars into projects which will finance fossil fuel burning”, Ben Tolhurst reported.
LIVING WAGE AND DECENT WORK: KEY TO SUSTAINABILITY AND CLIMATE ACTION
We must pay attention not only to the climate change and sustainability, but labour which is a very important missing part. First, we need to understand the model of “Fast Fashion” or why fast fashion exists the way it does. People have been overconsuming; buying new clothes for a low cost, discarding the “old” ones in response to fashion marketing and cultural pressure of influencers’ rapidly changing outfits. Brands have fed throwaway fashion culture and accelerated production with an average of 24 collections per year. With lack of legislation to protect workers and nature and lack of enforcement, the market has rewarded the least ethical and sustainable fashion models with huge profits.
A coercive atmosphere, so the workers produce more in less time, has led to “wage theft,” GBVH (gender-based violence and harassment) and garment industrial trauma complex.
Anannya Bhattacharjee stressed that “we need legislation on both sides – on the brand and production side, and on the retail and consumer side to make brands truly accountable”
“Every dollar spent on labour is an environmentally impact-free dollar. It’s a zero-carbon dollar.”
Misinformation, Fake certifications, and little reliable data
Unfortunately, there is much greenwash, fake organic cotton certifications, and misinformation made by fashion brands confusing their customers and making it difficult to take real action for social justice, climate, and biodiversity. Alden Wicker points out that there is little reliable research further slowing the progress of the fashion industry towards true sustainability.
“Fashion has a misinformation problem. That’s bad for the environment” Alden Wicker
Another issue that the fashion industry faces is that there are fake organic cotton certifications. Fashion brands use third party organisations to certificate the cotton which have recently shown to be certifying a much larger amount of cotton organic than is produced in India.
Debbie Luffman emphasized that fast fashion industry has little knowledge and control of their supply chain, because the brands change suppliers frequently to negotiate cheaper prices.
“The fashion industry is made of very complex, intertwined, multi-tiered supply chains. The true impact is probably worse that we think.” Debbie Luffman
TIPS FROM OUR SPEAKERS ABOUT HOW TO COMMUNICATE THE EMERGENCY AND LEAD CONVERSATION AND ACTION
BEN TOLHRST THREE TIPS:
- “We already have the money, the ingenuity, the solutions. But we don’t have sufficient political, personal, and business “will”. What is needed is a fundamental shift of consciousness. We (citizen, governments, businesses) need to act like the truth is real.”
- Raise awareness, educate staff and clients, and rely on employee activism.
- “Scrutinize supply chain to truly understand it and look at every business process/decision through climate/ecological lens.
Ben quotes environmental activist Wilder Berry: “We don’t have the right to ask whether we are going to succeed or not. The only question we have the right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does the Earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?”
ANANNYA BHATTACHARJEE THREE TIPS:
- “Living wage is a strategy to fight climate change for a sustainable planet.” “Living wage clothing is sustainable clothing. In fact, it might be the greenest clothing we own” Forbes, Jan 2022.
- “Living wage slows down fast-fashion. Better quality, less volume.”
- “Reimagine economic growth around humans instead of stuff. Fundamental shift.”
ALDEN WICKER THREE TIPS:
- “Both, my work and also staying motivated in the face of so many emergencies that are happening all over the world all the time is showing up every day and trying to do what I can that day.” “Focusing on something small ends up adding up and compounding to something much larger.”
- “Companies must invest in emissions reductions across their supply chain instead of offsetting”.
- “Thinking about solutions means that we can have people involved and not only big companies or businesses”.
DEBBIE LUFFMAN THREE TIPS:
- Get relevant.
- What are the biggest sustainability challenges facing your organization?
- What are your customers and critics saying?
- What are the risks and opportunities?
- Get Savvy
- Where does your company make garments and source materials from?
- What are your top volume materials?
- What are the relevant certifications/standards?
- Get informed. Look for third party resources: webinars, podcasts.
- Get Powerful
- Challenge the status quo – Business as usual is not an option
- Challenge leadership – Demand transparency, share your vision.
- Harness urgency and optimism – Be persuasive not despairing.
THE GOOD NEWS
We have the solutions we need to fight climate change; we need a fundamental shift of consciousness. We need to act as if the truth is real, as Ben Tolhurst said.
Drawdown Project enlists 100 solutions on its website.
Drawdown “is the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to decline.” Project Drawdown
There are solutions at business level as well, which are aligned with the five Fashion Declares Commitments. These solutions include raising awareness, educating yourself, staff, and clients, rapid decarbonization, scrutinization of the supply chain, shifting away from ecological destructive industries, and embracing and driving the circular economy.
One big clue is in the supply chain, if brands work closely with their raw materials suppliers, witness the process to obtain the organic materials, get involved in the training of the farmers, work with indigenous communities of farmers, weavers, embroiderers, and artisans, they will have more control and more traceable supply chains. These indigenous communities possess ancient wisdom, they have reached a great level of development, which sometimes we, the people that call ourselves “civilized” lack. They are in contact with the Earth and understand that life is more than the profitable aspect of it.
All the people who work in the fashion industry have the power, the fashion industry accounts for 2% of global GDP, and the industry employs 60 million people worldwide.
As Ben Tolhurst stated: “Be brave to speak out, you’ll be amazed by how many people want to speak out and join the conversation.”
Educate yourself, be curious, start with what you have, keep contributing and learning, and don’t forget that you are on the right side of the story.