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28.11.2016 Share


An Op-Ed from Swarovski VP of Sustainability during COP22
With global leaders concluding climate talks in Marrakech this Friday, the fashion industry should come together to tackle climate change, argues Dax Lovegrove, Vice President Sustainability at Swarovski 

The fashion industry is perfectly placed to have a positive impact in the fight against climate change. Ours is a fast-moving industry, able to pioneer sustainable methods of design and production; and we sit on a global stage, able to raise awareness and inspire action around international issues. We are trendsetters and tastemakers, and our decisions influence how designers and consumers think. We are also an industry that understands the power of collaboration, whether that is a new capsule collection or the long history of the industry coming together during global fashion weeks. While competition is key, brands can and should work together and learn from each other to help drive the industry forward.

A year ago in Paris at COP21, international leaders made an historic decision to limit the warming of the Earth to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pledged to reduce their nation’s carbon output. We were proud to be present too, with our support for James Balog’s acclaimed documentary, ‘Chasing Ice’, which was shown to an audience of leaders, experts and advocates to inspire action through beautiful imagery. We also showcased the spectacular art installation ‘Thinning Ice’ at Design Miami/, which provided an immersive experience around the melting polar ice caps, created by MacArthur Fellow and American architect Jeanne Gang.

As those same leaders meet again at COP22 in Marrakech, on the back of the Paris Agreement coming into force, it is vital that we build on this momentum. As with any business, Swarovski’s future is intertwined with climate change, and having a responsible relationship with the environment remains at the forefront of our decision-making. We are a business built on the power of nature; it was the abundant supply of fresh water provided by the River Wattenbach (fed by Alpine glaciers) that led our founder, Daniel Swarovski, to choose Wattens in the Tyrol as the company’s home. Water has provided much of the power needed to manufacture Swarovski crystals over the past 120 years, making us acutely aware of the fragile balance that must be maintained between people and the planet.

Outside of fashion we are witnessing extraordinary levels of innovation around sustainability, from the recent unveiling of Elon Musk’s new solar roof tiles to BMW and Nissan’s efforts to bring electric vehicles into the mainstream. It is exciting to see creativity and action coming together in fashion, too, with apps such as ‘My EP&L’ from Kering and Parsons School of Design, which helps emerging designers calculate the environmental impacts of using different materials in their creations. Educating both designers and customers in the core importance of sustainability must play a fundamental role if we are to make a difference. We have supported Central Saint Martins BA jewelry design students with their annual design challenge for the past 15 years, encouraging them to use sustainable methods and materials.

We need to keep sustainability at the top of the business agenda, whether it is joining in with these conversations, or leading the way with new initiatives. It is superb to see growing support for using greener materials across the industry. Stella McCartney and Kering have published environmental profit and loss statements spurring moves from leather to textiles and other alternative materials.

It is clear that sustainability and innovation are inherently interlinked. A recent interview here on the Business of Fashion revealed that when Nike spent about $50 million in R&D to swap the gas in the sole of their Nike Air from a greenhouse gas to the environmentally friendly nitrogen, it unlocked performance innovations that led to the Airmax 360. We understand that in this industry we can’t all make research investments at this level, however, we can all engage in bold thinking about the ways in which we do business.

As the Marrakech talks build on the pledges made in Paris, we look forward to Swarovski and the fashion community having the confidence to come together and find innovative and inspirational ways to tackle climate change. In today’s world of uncertainty, we are presented with the opportunity to create an industry of values that plays its part in driving the low carbon economy further forward. We must come together as an industry to protect the future of our planet.