The Global Fashion Agenda Monitor 2023

Anna Triponel

February 16, 2024

Our key takeaway: Like other major economic sectors, the fashion industry is highly susceptible to polycrises like climate change, biodiversity loss and geopolitical conflicts. The fashion value chain is a major driver of economic value creation for individuals from the farm to the factory and beyond, but is also a significant contributor to increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, land conversion and deforestation, water depletion, air and water pollution and negative impacts on people along the full value chain. The Global Fashion Agenda Monitor 2023 pulls out the ways that fashion companies can reduce their negative impacts while enhancing their positive impacts on the world. It calls on companies to “prioritise action on five fronts: respectful and secure work environments, better wage systems, resource stewardship, smart material choices and circular systems.” Within each of these areas, top areas for action include responsible procurement and ensuring decent work and fair wages, especially through the mechanisms that empower workers like collective bargaining, worker voice channels, wage transparency, healthy and safe workplaces, better social protection and inclusive employment practices. Companies can also move towards a “net-positive” fashion economy by reducing emissions and curbing other sourcing and manufacturing practices that contribute to global warming; responsibly using and sharing finite resources; aiming to use recycled materials where possible and promoting responsible land and animal welfare practices for virgin materials. They can also use circular models that embed each of these actions to generate more sustainable products and shift the fashion sector more broadly towards responsible practices.

The Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) published The GFA Monitor 2023: Progression to a Net Positive Fashion Industry (February 2024):

  • Ensuring respectful, secure work environments and better wage systems: As a source of income for around 300 million people, the fashion value chain plays a significant role in ensuring decent work and fair wages. Companies in the fashion sector can contribute by using responsible purchasing practices to promote workplace health and safety and ensure suppliers’ ability to pay fair wages; applying a diversity, equity and inclusion lens in hiring, training and promotion; and supporting collective bargaining agreements that help formalise and improve employment terms, enforce better social protections for workers and provide opportunities to increase wages. Companies can also enhance the impact of fair wages on decent work by promoting pay equity, empowering workers to maintain control over their own finances through systems like digital wage payments, and both advocating for and practicing wage transparency that provides workers with empowering information to negotiate for living wages.
  • Stewarding natural resources and making smart material choices: Fashion is a “significant consumer of finite resources and contributor to global GHG emissions” through land conversion, deforestation, air and water pollution, freshwater consumption and depletion of natural resources. Production and consumption of both natural and synthetic fibres likewise contributes to these impacts. The report flags that “the most adverse effects befall the most vulnerable, including growers and garment workers with critical roles in the apparel sector.” Companies can reduce energy use and use renewable energy to replace fossil fuels like coal, while supporting suppliers to do the same. They can also move away from highly extractive sourcing models towards regenerative agriculture and responsible land use, and implement “a context-driven approach to water stewardship that aims to mitigate shared water risks and contributes to positive basin outcomes and value creation at scale.” Using recycled synthetic fibres and seeking to source responsibly farmed natural materials from animals and plants can also support fashion companies in reducing their impact on nature. This should be coupled with adopting standards for animal welfare, regenerative grazing and land management, and deforestation- and conversion-free programmes for animal-derived fibres.
  • Investing in circular systems: GFA points out that on our current trajectory, “existing resource flows will become less dependable and more value will be destroyed” in short order. Circularity in fashion can not only mitigate the extraction of finite natural resources but can also contribute to new employment opportunities for workers when done responsibly. This will contribute to a just transition, especially for groups already vulnerable to negative effects of the fashion industry. Companies can seek to improve the longevity and the ability to remake their products, as well as using safe recycled or renewable materials. They can also work with others through “pre-competitive collaboration and joint investments to ready the entire fashion value chain for textile-to-textile recycling at scale.”  

You may also be interested in

This week’s latest resources, articles and summaries.