Where Was Fashion at COP26?

Friday 26 November 2021

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By now, we all know that COP26 was a failure. It feels almost astounding how little it managed to achieve apart from the extent to which it highlighted our world leaders are the major climate hypocrites that they are.

But where was the fashion industry in all this?

At the entrance of the Blue Zone, where all the politicians and official representatives attended and took part in events, panels, and talks, the fashion industry was centre stage with an exhibition created by Sustainable Fashion Scotland Beira and ZWD. This installation, titled Generation of Waste, consisted of eight caged pillars highlighting the textile waste created at each stage of a garment’s life cycle, from design all the way through to its end-of-life. Acting as a parallel to the way national growths and economies are often measured and displayed with these pillars acting as a bar chart together to highlight the urgent need for degrowth and the full extent of fashion’s waste problem. And it is a big waste problem: 144 million tonnes of textile waste generated globally every year. That’s enough to fit 2975 Hydro buildings (COP’s venue).

Not only have Generation of Waste put fashion’s waste crisis directly in front of high-profiled COP-delegates from around the world, they have also been sharing more detailed information on their website (which was linked via a QR code on the exhibition) and social media platforms. For example, did you know that $5.6 million worth of textile waste is generated globally every year as a direct result from the distribution of clothes and that that is the equivalent of employing an additional 400 garment workers in the USA every year? Or can you imagine if the money used to manufacture those clothes in the first place was instead used to play the workers who made them a decent living wage? So many problems would be solved. The figure of only 2% of garment workers worldwide being paid a living wage could be radically transformed if brands took ownership of the waste crisis and pumped the money they spend on clothes that ultimately end up in landfill into the wage packets of their workers. The solution are there waiting for us, we just need them to be set in motion.

Credit: Lateral North

The UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Change Progress Report was also launched with updates from its original 2018-iteration at the conference. This pledge signed by +180 brands (notably not by major-offender brands like Boohoo and Shein). One significant part of the pledge includes a commitment for brands to reach net-zeros no later than 2050 and to half their emissions by 2030. As George Harding-Rells highlighted in a recent panel with XR Fashion Action, a lot of brands who have signed the UNFCCC have done so as a means to further greenwash themselves. We see the same brands who time and time again are signing these voluntary agreements but in reality making very little change. Yes, you guessed right, the H&M Group have signed it but are still producing clothes at an astronomic rate. What we’ve not seen with these voluntary commitments is major offender brands like Boohoo and Shein showing any willingness whatsoever to even try to lessen their environmental impacts – and they’re the types of brands we desperately need to be doing more. He also pointed out that many of the signatory brands have made their own net-zero claims in previous years and have done very little to demonstrate their actions are aligning with such commitments, especially around degrowth. If clothing production has more than doubled in the past 15 years, then we need drastic collective action to prevent production rates from escalating even further, let alone reducing them. Even if all the clothes were made using the most sustainable fabrics possible, it would all mean nothing if we continue to produce our clothes at such a high rate.

On the same XR Fashion Action panel, Bel Jacobs looked at the broader greenwashing net-zero pledges allow throughout all industries and government, as a term and commitment which is there to make people feel better about themselves while still emitting carbon at the same or similar levels. We don’t need any more net-zero pledges for 2030 or 2050, we need as little carbon emitted as possible, as soon as possible.

There were also many less formal events organized by grassroots groups all across the city, from information events and open studios, to clothes swaps and mending workshops. Fashion Revolution also had bloc at Global Day of Action March on the first Saturday of the event and were present in the main venue. We know that big fast fashion brands aren’t going to give us the solutions, but the people who were connecting and organising in the outskirts of the venue are the ones who give me hope and energy and who are the ones from whom change will come.

At a recent XR Fashion Action panel event it as highlighted that ‘while some elements of fashion had a large presence at COP, the industry’s enormous reliance on fossil fuels is being consistently ignored by our global political leaders and corporations’. Somehow, COP26 was the first time that the need to put an end to fossil fuels was formally and explicitly recognized by world leaders. Yep, somehow they didn’t think to recognise that at the first COP in 1992. Seems pretty obvious to me but we move. Congrats to world leaders for just managing to realise that fossil fuels are bad. Pat on the back for you.

What we need now is the delegates with power at COP26 to take that now-formal need to dismantle the fossil fuel industry into action – implementing and enforcing legislation around both the fossil fuel and fashion industries and severely limiting how much polyester is manufactured (if any) by fashion brands, as one of the most popular fabrics currently used that just so happens to also be made plastic aka fossil fuels.  At COP, this supposedly came through Textile Exchange Trade Policy Request through which over 50 fashion brands and textile companies called on national governments to take action to encourage the use of environmentally-friendly fabrics and materials, with a particular push against polyester. There is no doubt that we need to cut out polyester from our lives. The fashion industry at the moment uses over 700 million tonnes of oil to go towards the production of polyester – that means there’s more oil used for the production of polyester in fashion than Spain uses as an entire country. However, like the UNFCCC, workers and the people (mostly women) at the heart of the fashion industry are not mentioned. They need to be at the forefront of change.

We have seen time and time again governments ignore calls from campaigners to create change and enforce better workers’ rights standards and take a meaningful stand for the planet. The UK Government has refused to take action in preventing the exploitation of garment workers several times, most recently with Priti Patel claiming that the reason there wasn’t any intervention in the Boohoo sweatshops in Leicester was because of the fear police would be seen as ‘racist’ if they did. Over a year before those allegations came to the mainstream news, the Government failed to implement policy suggestions made in the Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion report, published in February 2019. Action then could have prevented further exploitation of marginalised garment workers in Leicester at the very beginning of the pandemic.

In order for true impact to be had on the global stage, governments need to be taking climate justice issues seriously on the domestic level. Host states cannot be preaching about their apparent climate leadership while time and time again proving they are not committed to taking meaningful actions themselves. Fashion needs to be discussed more prominently in conferences like these, and workers’ rights need to be at the forefront of negotiations. The next COP should prioritise unions of workers in previously colonised countries and the voices of indigenous people who are most affected by the climate crisis instead of allowing fossil fuel companies to perpetuate their greenwashing as the largest delegation in attendance.

If you like my work and have learned something from it, please consider helping support me (so I have more time to write posts and articles like these!) by buying me a virtual cuppa

If you liked this post you might like: My Experience with #NoNewClothes and Slow Fashion Season

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What is SB62 and Why Is It So Important? | Slow Fashion Simplified #3

Wednesday 10 November 2021

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SB62, otherwise known as the Garment Worker Protection Act, is a piece of Californian state legislation which was signed into law on 27th September of this year. You might have heard it mentioned by various different campaigning groups such as Remake or Fashion Revolution, or in publications such as Vogue. It is a ground-breaking piece of legislation which puts the welfare of garment workers in California at its centre. But what actually is it and why do we keep banging on about it?

What changes will it bring?

There’s a whole lot of stuff in the Garment Worker Protection Act. More than I can cover in this blog post (check out this article among several others on SB62 published by Remake). There are several key things to highlight however that can be looked at in 3 key areas: fair pay, transparency, and accountability.
One of the main aspects of the Garment Worker Protection Act is putting an end to the piece rate pay system. According to organisations such as Remake, some garment workers in California were being paid as little as $2.68 per hour. As a result of SB62, those same garment workers will now be paid at least $14 per hour. That is such a massive difference and will have such a huge impact in so many ways, especially as the vast majority of those workers are from minoritised ethnicities, are women, and are immigrants. 
The bill also enforces increased transparency and accountability for brands operating in California. This includes an emphasis on joint-liability for brands and garment manufacturers for the welfare of their garment workers and any discrepancies which occur. This means that brands operating in California can no longer pass off the blame for human rights scandals onto the factories they have outsourced to, claiming they apparently had no idea these things were occurring in their supply chain. SB62 forces brands to take action and take responsibility for the exploitation their wealth is created from.  
SB62 also provides more powers to the Labor Commissioner in California, allowing them to exercise more direct oversight of the brands operating in the state. This in turn holds brands further to account, provides them with someone who can enforce some consequences for when action is not taken, and also forces them to be more transparent about what exactly is going on in their supply chains.

Who is responsible for it?

The Garment Worker Protection Act didn’t come into being overnight. It was made possible from huge coalition of activists from all over the world and from many, many different organising groups. 
These have included activist groups such the Garment Worker Center, Remake, United Students Against Sweatshops, Fashion Revolution USA, and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Californian politicians like Maria Elena Durazo have also been at the forefront of championing this bill, and different ethical California-based brands such as Reformation and Christy Dawn and lots of everyday people wanting to see a change have been part of making it such a success.
This coalition of change makers has been working on pushing for this bill for a long time. I remember SB62 being mentioned during my first ever Remake Community Call back in September 2020. It was then introduced to the California state senate on 7th December 2020 – yes, that was around 10 months from its introduction to the senate until the Governor signed it into law. That’s a lot of time and effort into making this happen. 
For many there was also months if not years of work before the bill was even introduced to the senate. Different forms of the bill had been introduced or conceptualised before but had not passed or gained as much traction as SB62.
Campaigners for SB62 faced lots of opposition from big fashion brands to whom the bill represented a cut to their profits as it directly targeted the system of exploitation their businesses are based on. 

But this only affects garment workers in California, right?

Nope! Well technically yes. This piece of legislation only covers garment workers in California. But that is still over 45,000 people who will have their standard of working and living significantly increased as a result of this bill. If it only affected those people, it would still be a massive win. 
However, it is a piece of legislation that will likely get replicated in a kind of domino effect across other U.S. states and in other countries around the world. We are yet to see the full effects this piece of legislation could and will have. As I’ve already mentioned, organisers have spent a long time pushing for this bill to be passed, and it was a great moment of celebration for everyone involved. Not only is this bill something to now celebrate, but it is something which I think has galvanised and motivated lots of people to act. Thousands of people emailed in to Californian legislators and to Governor Gavin Newsom about the bill from all over the world. They’re not going to stop there. 
Alongside the renewal of the Bangladesh Accord into the International Accord weeks before, the passing of SB62 shows a whole lot of potential and successes. It acts as an example that these wins certainly can be achieved and are more than possible – and that is certainly motivating for future change. 
Legal reform is by no means the end of the fight for a just fashion industry, but changes like the Garment Worker Protection Act are pretty good starting points. 

If you like my work and have learned something from it, please consider helping support me (so I have more time to write posts and articles like these!) by buying me a virtual cuppa

If you liked this post you might like: What Do We Mean by Greenwashing and Woke-Washing? | SFS #2

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October 2021 | Monthly Wrap Up

Monday 1 November 2021

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I don’t really know how I’ve felt about October. Parts have been great but there have also been parts where I’ve felt quite anxious and felt myself slipping a bit. But hey, we move, and I’m still getting into the swing of managing my uni work alongside everything else so I have plenty of time to figure things out. 


Favourite part?

I feel like every month now I begin with some kind of protest or action, and I won’t lie I’m here for it. I started October with a protest outside a new H&M store opened up in Newcastle’s Eldon Square Shopping Centre with a few pals, photographed by my friend and flatmate Jude. It was my first time organising an action like this by myself and outside of a wider organisation like Green New Deal Rising, so it was a bit intimidating but I think we had a pretty decent impact. People around us looked at our placards and listened to what we were saying, the store took notice (turning up the music they were blasting when we started speaking), and we got some more notice online too. It was also great to do something like that with my friends Fi and Harriet, and for Fi to crack out their Captain Greenwash outfit again and wear it proudly in public!


October is also my birthday month! I had a party the night before my birthday. It was Taylor Swift themed, as I turned 22 (still proud of that theme) and it was just so lovely catching up with people I’d not seen in ages, and to spend time with people I care about in a larger group (even if I was very stressed about Covid testing beforehand, but we were all fine). My birthday itself was quite uneventful. I caught up on Strictly in bed hungover, got a bagel for lunch from my fave Dot Bagels, and had a very tasty meal cooked for me by my flatmates in the evening. It was also my flatmate Meg's birthday a few days ago so October is a big birthday month for our house! 


My friends and I have had a few more film nights, and it makes me so happy. Without all having uni or being on society committees together anymore it’s not as easy to see each other, but regular film are a great of making sure we see each other frequently. We’re also going to see Rocky Horror together for Halloween and I am so excited! By the time this post is out it will have already happened but I cannot wait. 

I've also been trying out new places to work now that we're allowed to be in public spaces again. I've been exploring different cafes (both ones I already know and ones that were new to me) and other public spaces around the city.


And I couldn’t not mention my new hair! I’ve been wanting to go ginger for a long time, and I finally got my hair done not long after my birthday. I had a wonderful afternoon at the hairdressers. I felt awful for coughing a fair bit after having a really bad cold because I was paranoid people would think I had Covid (PCR confirmed it wasn’t) but apart from that I was so chilled. I had lots of peppermint tea (which has now become a slight obsession), read some of my book, sat in very comfortable chairs, and had the luxury of someone else sorting out my hair. I was so zen when I got home. I absolutely love my hair ginger too. Itmakes me feel so confident, and I actually feel more attractive as a ginge? Never underestimate the power of hair dye. 

Best read?

At the beginning of the month I read We Need to Talk About Money by Otegha Uwagba, which is incredible. Otegha’s writing is so intelligent, thought through and accessible, I will never get bored of reading her writing. There are so many interesting points of discussion in this book, from the #GirlBoss and commodification of feminism, to discussions on her early career, finding healthy working environments, and the beauty tax. Please read this book! 


I then read The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins for my degree. On the same day I finished The Haunted Hotel, I read most of and finished I Wish I Knew This Earlier by Toni Tone. This book is one I feel I will go back to many a time, and felt like a bit of a call out at many times, but in a good way. I genuinely want someone to whack me around the face with this book if I‘m ever being silly about a romantic situation or ignoring red flags again. Likely, genuinely, if you want common sense discussions on love, relationships, breakups, and even self-love, read this damn book, it’s very short too which helps. I felt this book in my chest.


I am currently read Consumed by Aja Barber which is as insightful as I thought it would be. You never know by the time this blog post is published I might have finished it already, but wow it’s brilliant and explains things so succinctly. 


I am also at the beginning of The Law and the Lady by Wilkie Collins, which is the next book I am reading for my degree. I am also reading Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis also for my degree, but which is a book I have been wanting to read for a long time. 

Favourite listen?

I finally caught up on the bonus episode of Aurelia’s podcast featuring Aja Barber, which I absolutely loved. I always love earing Aja speak. I’ve also been loving the new series of the Yikes Podcast and All the Small Things (which also features an episode with Aja). 

Favourite watch?

The bes thing I’ve watched this month has undoubtedly been Joe Lycett vs the Oil Giant. It is so funny, on topic, and to the point, I absolutely loved it. It was so wonderful seeing greenwashing and climate action being highlighted by a mainstream media platform for once in a positive light, and directly challenging what such a big corporation is doing. I hope Joe Lycett does more programmes like these in the future! 


I have been watching some of the regular weekly shows that are back now, like Strictly, Bake Off and Drag Race. 


I rewatched some of my comfort watches, including Ghosts and New Girl, and I’m now working my way through The Americans. I’d watched some of The Americans before ages ago but I can’t remember why I stopped watching it then, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it now.

Image source

What did I learn?

I can organise things effectively, people do appreciate my work, and things can take time to figure out. Also that my criteria of what makes an adult is paying council tax. Yes, I’m now officially an adult. 

What’s happening next month?

Lots of conversations and events happening around COP26 and doing more of my degree! I think I’m going to take a bit of a break from direct actions and protests after COP, just because I know it will be good for me to take some time to rest and focus on my other work/projects. And then I can come back with more energy later on, or maybe even in the New Year (I do know it is a massive privilege to be able to take breaks from activism though).


What’s been on my mind?

I guess just making sure I’m keeping on top of everything. No area of my life is particularly overwhelming at the moment but there’s just lots of little things happening that I feel I need to navigate better. I’ll figure it out. 


Favourite post?

I always find my ‘Me at…’ posts interesting to write.  They can be quite personal, and the writing process can be quite different from other posts as it can entail a lot of inner reflection and looking at how I’ve progressed and changed in the past year. They’re certainly valuable to me but can feel a bit weird physically writing out. 


One of my other posts, Why You Should Join Green New Deal Rising, is another one I loved writing. I love being able to share the joy I feel about organisations and people doing amazing things. I love being a part of GNDR so much and want to spread the word and the love I have for it, as well as to make us more effective by mobilising more young people to take action for their futures. 


Biggest inspiration?


Watching Stop Cambo’s Instagram live of their action at TedxCountdown action against Shell’s CEO was so inspiring to me. It was so energizing watching as Lauren spoke to Ben Van Beurden and called him out for his greenwashing and evil tactics against climate action to his face. It was so impactful, so moving, and so motivating. This is what we want to see more of! 

Image source

Any other favourites?

Peppermint tea! As I mentioned earlier, I have been drinking a lot of peppermint tea. It’s keeping me going right now. 


A perhaps unexpected favourite is my new laptop stand I got from IKEA and the wireless keyboard I was given by my parents. I wouldn’t have thought before actually use it that my stand and keyboard would be helpful to me, but now I’m never going back. I think it is actually helping my posture looking higher up at my screen, and I feel more professional having a proper keyboard and mouse set up on my desk – even if that might sound a bit silly? 

If you like my work and have learned something from it, please consider helping support me (so I have more time to write posts and articles like these!) by buying me a virtual cuppa

If you liked this post you might like: September 2021 | Monthly Wrap Up


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