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Press Release

New initiative to stem biodiversity loss in global fashion supply chains

Conservation International and The Fashion Pact join to support nature and sustainable livelihoods with support of funding from the Global Environment Facility

March 9, 2021

Conservation International, as a Global Environment Facility (GEF) partner agency, today announced an effort that will help increase sustainability in the global fashion industry through science-based initiatives designed to mitigate the sector’s impacts on biodiversity loss through the creation of a new practice that will help minimize land-use change, pollution, and natural resource extraction.

The project, “Transforming the Fashion Sector to Drive Positive Outcomes for Biodiversity, Climate and Oceans,” is funded by a $2 million grant from the GEF and will be co-executed by Conservation International and The Fashion Pact.

The effort will develop and share best practices designed to clean supply chains, improve agricultural practices, decrease deforestation, and support livelihoods. The sustainability guidance will provide a roadmap for The Fashion Pact’s signatory companies and brands to help ensure they drive positive environmental change that will benefit both nature and communities. 

The Fashion Pact is a global, CEO-led coalition of 60+ signatories representing over 200 brands and one-third of the global fashion industry by volume. In October 2020, The Fashion Pact announced Conservation International as its technical partner in its commitments to biodiversity restoration and protection. It also committed to its first concrete conservation targets including the development of a biodiversity strategy designed to encourage zero deforestation and sustainable forest management.

“Conservation International is proud to partner with The Fashion Pact and its member companies to develop biodiversity strategies that conserve and restore forests and improve management of agricultural lands. The support from the Global Environment Facility will enable us to develop regenerative approaches to agriculture supply chains, lessen the impacts of gold mining on nature and reduce carbon emissions while improving the lives of producers,” said Bambi Semroc, Conservation International Acting Senior Vice President for the Center for Sustainable Lands and Waters.

Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the fashion industry was estimated to generate $1.5 trillion in 2020. Alongside its economic impact, it also has a substantial environmental impact which has continued to grow. For example, in 2018 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that the industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions — more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

The new GEF-funded project aims to lessen this impact through the completion of five guiding goals:

  1. Provide The Fashion Pact signatories, and more generally, the fashion industry with a foundational understanding of environmental impact across fashion supply chains with a focus on production and extraction of raw materials;
  2. Create specific analyses to guide the development of action plans for the fashion industry that will address issues related to the intersection of climate change and biodiversity loss to the benefit of the public;
  3. Identify existing projects and opportunities for projects that help the fashion industry to lessen its immediate and long-term environmental impacts including across the cashmere, leather, and gold supply chains;  
  4. Provide the tools needed to help The Fashion Pact track progress toward its goals, encouraging practical action by its member companies; and
  5. Measure and monitor the implementation and outcomes of the project’s sustainability progress.

“This pioneering program is absolutely aligned with The Fashion Pact’s conviction that we as the fashion industry need to work together in order to drive solutions, innovation, and impact at scale. By indicating biodiversity as one our three key pillars of work, The Fashion Pact is dedicated to driving collective action in this area,” said Eva von Alvensleben, Executive Director and Secretary General of The Fashion Pact Association. “We are honored and humbled to join Conservation International and the GEF in leading this foundational work needed to explore sector impacts, relevance of biodiversity to brands and their business and dive deeper into setting priorities and targets, taking action. Ultimately, this program has the potential to drive understanding and industry transformation towards nature-positivity through a science-based approach.”

“This initiative will give real momentum to efforts within the fashion industry to protect biodiversity, slow climate change, and limit chemical pollution – it is consistent with the GEF’s push for constant innovation. Partnerships like these have the potential to transform ‘business as usual’ in a lasting way and bring important benefits to nature,” said Dr. Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programs at the Global Environment Facility. “The GEF is committed to working with industry to build sustainable supply chains and business models that put the planet and people first. Such efforts will be an important part of our upcoming replenishment cycle and work program.”

In addition to the GEF funding, this work will be in collaboration with and supported by an additional $2 million provided by Conservation International and other partners, including The Biodiversity Consultancy, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, The Dragonfly Initiative, The Impact Facility, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Textile Exchange, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Green Commodities Programme, the UNEP, the Wildlife Friendly Enterpise Network, and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.