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Big Fashion’s Sustainability Push Has a Huge Hole

No one in Big Fashion has figured out how to align climate goals with retail’s current business model.

A sale sign above a rack of clothing on a market stall in Barking, UK.

A sale sign above a rack of clothing on a market stall in Barking, UK.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Last week was Fashion Week in New York City, and on Monday Climate Week will come to the Big Apple. At the intersection of these annual showcases lies an uncomfortable truth: No one has figured out how to credibly align climate goals with fashion’s current business model. 

Retailers have in the past few years announced a slew of sustainability measures — practically every company in the industry has a plan, or a plan to make a plan, for changing how they manufacture products to be greener, and extending those products’ lifespan. These initiatives have given rise to the buzzword of “circularity,” and are geared at reckoning with fashion’s enormous climate footprint. According to the United Nations, the industry contributes between 2% and 8% of global carbon emissions.