In what’s seen as a milestone for the Hong Kong fashion industry, eight local manufacturers formally signed on to the United Nation’s  Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action The group is the first batch of Hong Kong manufacturers to formally pledge to collaborate with global fashion companies to tackle the climate crisis and implement sustainable practices in global fashion supply chains. The signing took place at the September 2019 Fashion Summit Hong Kong, where nearly a thousand participants, many key players from the industry, gathered to discuss ways to achieve fashion sustainability in Asia .

“Hong Kong has long been a major hub for global fashion, with the city ranking among the top 10 in global textile imports and exports, and production bases spread across the region from mainland China to South and Southeast Asia” said Karen Ho, Head of Corporate and Community Sustainability, WWF-Hong Kong, which together with the Clothing Industry Training Authority (CITA), convened the eight firms to sign the climate pledge.

She noted that as signatories to the UN treaty, manufacturers can work with related stakeholders to implement sustainable management schemes and regulations to upgrade facilities and the production process, serving as industry role models for others to follow suit.

The launch of the fashion industry charter  at the 2018 UN Climate Change Conference is considered a major step forward for an industry that has one of the highest carbon footprint. Signed by more than 50 leading brands, retailers, suppliers, the charter lays out a framework for the industry to collectively address the climate impact of the fashion sector across its entire value chain as part of a worldwide move to limit the increase in the global average temperature to well below 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“Across the industry, there is more understanding that it needs to change the way it operates, particularly in its use of energy and other resources,” said Philip Mok, WWF-Hong Kong Executive Councillor at the event opening. “The question is how to pick up the pace and accelerate progress towards becoming a more sustainable industry,”

This year’s Fashion Summit discussed ways to start implementing existing tools and standards developed in recent years; in particular, blockchain technology. Many industry representatives believe blockchain holds the key to improving transparency and traceability by enabling stakeholders in the fashion industry to share information efficiently and effectively throughout the supply chain. The technology could help some of the world’s leading brands meet their target to source 100 percent sustainable fabric by 2025. Currently, most brands are unable to identify their suppliers beyond the first tier.

TextileGenesis is among the tech developers working with the fashion industry to create a tailored platform for clients to trace the origin of their fabric. According to Amit Gautam, Textile Genesis CEO and founder, the technology allow for authentication by capturing the entire transaction chain down to the fiber origin. Data is protected from tampering as information cannot be altered or overwritten once entered into the database. And akin to Lego blocks, other authentification and traceability features can be added to the backbone technology once the framework is set up.

This technology and other types of innovation like this will help tackle one of the thorniest sustainability issues facing the industry, which can no longer afford to operate business as usual. In the words of UN Global Climate representative Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu at the summit: “urgent action is needed now to implement the goals of the Paris Agreement — if the fashion industry doesn’t do its part, we cannot achieve our goals.”

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