What Happened: For nearly 30 years, the United Nations Conference of the Parties, better known as COP, has served as the banner under which the world has gathered together to discuss and assess climate change. This year’s 27th edition (COP27) is widely considered crucial if the climate emergency is to be brought under control. More than 200 countries are attending the summit, which runs from November 6–18 in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh.
As a sector responsible for the razing of over 3.2 billion trees a year, 10 percent of carbon emissions, and 20 percent of global water waste, fashion ranks high on the agenda. Numerous brands, suppliers, retailers, and activists are among the 200-plus delegates in attendance. This year, Stella McCartney, Kering, and H&M launched a call to action for the transition to sustainable fabrics by 2025. Meanwhile, the non-profit organization Global Fashion Agenda announced the launch of its Fashion Industry Target Consultation to identify a more concrete approach to achieving net zero. And it was significant that Zalando, Germany’s biggest fashion retailer, was also present.
The Jing Take: Let’s not beat around the bush here. The situation has surpassed the point of climate emergency. What we are facing is climate devastation. According to the United Nations climate agency, even if the world meets current pledges for 2030, global heating levels would rise to a catastrophic level. This, and other equally pessimistic data such as that regarding increasing temperatures, means the values of the provocative event are, once again, being called into question. COP27 has been skipped by the iconic environmental activist Greta Thunberg — who described it as a forum for greenwashing. Indeed, as global inflation rises, it has seen a vast increase in the number of attendees from the fossil fuel industries.
The global environmental non-profit Canopy has stated that to achieve scale, commitments from the world’s biggest fashion companies are needed immediately to make sustainable fashion more cost-effective. These have not been, on the whole, forthcoming. Meanwhile, Forest 500 has found that one-third of the world’s most influential companies have yet to make a forest conservation commitment; this includes luxury companies. Maybe if there’s a takeaway to be had from this event, it’s simply that the sector isn’t up to the challenge. LVMH and others can save a burning building in Paris, but the world? Can the sector even contemplate the level of commitment required to bring about radical change?
Meanwhile, in China, Kantar found that while 54 percent of those surveyed knew about the summit, a staggering 19 percent admitted to not being aware of it. But despite this figure, maybe it is to the planet’s biggest polluter that the world can look for hope. In recent years, sustainability has become a growing topic in the country and citizens, especially Gen Z, are particularly attuned to this issue. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the mainland has experienced a number of environmental catastrophes, such as the flooding in Henan which led to 302 deaths and over $17.6 billion (125 billion RMB) of direct economic losses. During COP26, Beijing unexpectedly announced plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, which the Climate Action Tracker projects will be met comfortably. While the 20th Party Congress in October failed to deliver any new policy updates on climate, Xi did vow to “basically eliminate” heavy air and water pollution and bring soil contamination under control.
China is on track to account for 30 percent of luxury consumption by 2025, up from 25 percent. Frankly, if labels want to be cynical, being ethical plays well with young Chinese consumers. And we have seen how impactful locals can be when it comes to boycotting, or speaking with their wallets. Given the oversized role the county will now have in luxury spend, it’s not hyperbole to say that if Chinese shoppers hold brands to account, it could have a considerable impact. Granted, it won’t end the crisis. But it could force companies, not only luxury ones, to begin taking it seriously.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.