1 Sustainability becomes a new focus
Sustainability has become a crucial part of public dialogue worldwide. In 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a study estimating that there are a mere 12 years left to avoid some of the most disastrous impacts of climate change.
Retail is taking note.
In 2018, a number of companies expanded sustainability efforts, with outdoor and sporting companies leading the way. In April of last year, REI announced efforts to enforce sustainability standards for its 1,000 vendors. The company also furthered investments to 'rewild' five American cities and expanded its gear rental program. The year also saw North Face launch its Renewed line, a collection of damaged and refurbished items to further waste reduction.
A sustainability reality check came last year when it was revealed that Burberry burned and destroyed items it didn't sell. A forceful public backlash led to a shift in internal policies, with the luxury company vowing to increase efforts to reuse, repair, and recycle products.
But, more has to be done, and accountability is coming from an unlikely source: the UN, which launched the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. The group's mission to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 has gained support from brands including Adidas, Gap, Target and H&M.
"We know that climate change is already introducing risks and uncertainty with implications for businesses," said a spokesperson for UN Climate Change, Global Climate Action in an email interview with Retail Dive. "Fashion is sensitive to consumer demands [that] are increasingly not only becoming environmentally conscious but also environmentally responsible."
Although apparel represents only one sector of the retail market, the UN initiative illustrates how crucial collaboration is if the larger industry is to create meaningful change. "UN Climate Change has convened fashion stakeholders into a dialogue to enhance collaboration and catalyze efforts to collectively identify and address barriers to climate action," said the spokesperson.