This week, it’s not only the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, it’s also Fashion Revolution Week. Which means there’s a lot going on in the world right now, from negative oil prices to H&M topping the Fashion Transparency Index… Feeling overwhelmed? Here’s a round-up of the week’s top environmental stories. (And don’t forget to check back next week, because we already know there’s going to be a part two.)
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Happy Earth Day!
1. Oil prices fall to negatives, climate advocates urge against a bailout, and Trump calls… for a bailout.
If you’ve not already heard, the price of US crude oil has dropped to negatives. For the first time on record. Oil producers are paying buyers to take the product off their hands. Why is this happening? Because of the coronavirus pandemic and global lockdown that’s happened. Of course, climate advocates are saying no to a bailout. In fact, they’re calling to nationalise the oil and gas industry, making it publicly owned. Which would protect workers while managing the transition towards a fossil-free future. (PS: that’s kind of what we all want here). But what did President Trump do? Call for a bailout. “We will never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down,” he tweeted, “I have instructed the Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Treasury to formulate a plan which will make funds available so that these very important companies and jobs will be secured long into the future!”
Yikes. Talk about disaster capitalism. PS: check out this neat explainer of why fossil fuels aren’t the future.
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OIL PRICES DROPPED TO BELOW $0 PER BARREL. A first for the history books, and I really tried to figure out what this means for the climate movement (I’m not sure about the economy and politics, educate me pls). While the COVID19 pandemic is a big cause for the decreased demand, other factors also contribute to this low price and volatility like trade agreements, geopolitics, etc. But this doesn’t may not necessarily mean a win for the climate movement. For e.g. it could make renewables more difficult to invest in or even things like government bailouts, poor climate policy only benefit and support those in power – I say this because there are downstream workers we still need to support #peoplesbailout and also transit out of when we think about greening our economy #justtransition. We need to make sure that our economic stimulus plans and recovery plans are green and just. I’ve given some resources for you to check out, and perhaps this could be useful for you when thinking about your country’s approach to this news and the pandemic. Rly a quick summary of what I’ve read, there is just SO MUCH to process. So before today ends, here’s to catch you up with the headlines if you missed it! Everything in this post comes paraphrased or copied from the sources in the slide with screenshots of articles! Do comment your thoughts and if there are things I missed. I’m pretty sure I missed some nuances and also a lot of content. Hope there are no spelling errors this time. #bigoil #climateaction #justrecovery
2. South Korea embraces EU-style Green Deal for COVID-19 recovery!
South Korea’s Democratic Party has won a landslide victory in elections last week. Importantly, this means they’re going to start on their manifesto, published in March. That manifesto made them the first nation in east Asia to pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050. President Moon Jae-in has previously explicitly referred to the European Green Deal as instrumental in the formulation of the Korean plan. And it shows. The deal includes a carbon tax, a requirement to end investment in coal, and a focus on investment in renewable energy sources, as well as a hydrogen strategy.
As Forbes notes, the task ahead is a huge one. Because South Korea is the seventh most polluting nation in terms of carbon emissions, and according to Greenpeace, it’s one of the largest investors in coal worldwide. But there’s good news: because of their above-average COVID-19 response (which also contributed to their electoral victory), the country “could emerge from the pandemic relatively unscathed, meaning the country is well-placed to enact bold new plans.” Not only that but the South Korean public also takes climate change very seriously. A Pew Research Center study published last year found that 86% of South Koreans viewed climate change as the foremost global threat, far ahead of terrorism or even North Korea’s nuclear programme!
And speaking of post-viral rebuilding…
3. 170 Dutch academics put together a 5-point manifesto for rebuilding a better post-viral world.
By the way, this comes after the recent announcement that Amsterdam is going to embrace “doughnut” economics (which already was amazing news). This new manifesto is one for rethinking economic change. Consequently, it’s gone viral, pun intended, in the Dutch media. The key points? Shifting away from prioritising GDP growth. Building an economic framework focused on redistribution (think taxes, valuing care work, universal basic income, etc.). Transforming the farming industry, reducing consumption and travel, and debt cancellation (for workers, small businesses and countries in the Global South). These are exactly the types of principles we want to see in a post-viral world.
4. Harvard pledges net-zero investment in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Not the complete divestment we wanted, but a good start nonetheless! The university, which is sitting on a $41 billion endowment fund, clarified that its new policy isn’t divestment—the withdrawal of assets—per se. Rather, it’s an “increased commitment to investing in sustainability efforts”. Hence, the move disappointed some faculty, students, and alumni, who were pressuring the university for a swift withdrawal. While the announcement aligns with the Paris agreement and represents (finally) a willingness to engage with and talk more about the climate and the endowment, Danielle Strasburger, a 2018 graduate and the campaign manager for Harvard Forward, an effort to get alumni who back climate change policies onto the board of overseers, said that “2050 seems like a pretty far off timeline, given the urgency of the crisis.”
Strasburger are awaiting further details on how they plan to get to net-zero.
5. Shell plans to become a net-zero carbon company by 2050 or sooner.
How? First of all: it’s planning to sell clean energy products like renewable energy and biofuels. Second: it’s planning to work with customers (like major airlines) to share the burden of offsetting from fossil fuel products. But are you seeing the issue here? The target, which sounds good at first glance, isn’t about an absolute reduction in emissions. Shell’s goal is to reduce the overall carbon intensity, which means it can achieve this goal without actually reducing the amount of fossil fuels produced. If that sounds like greenwashing to you, that’s because it most certainly is. Richard George, head of Greenpeace UK’s climate campaign, said to The Guardian: “A credible net-zero plan from Shell would start with a commitment to stop drilling for new oil and gas.”
- President Trump announced that his administration will be using $19 billion in funds to bail out the meat and dairy industry. They’ll be making direct payments to farmers, and mass-purchasing dairy and meat. Trump says that it’s to get food to people in need, but he’s also pushing out food stamp cuts at the same time. What’s really happening here?
- According to NGO Tearfund, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are still falling short on dealing with their plastic pollution problem. (If you didn’t know, they’re among the world’s largest plastic polluters!) Tearfund reports that they’ve not publicly committed to reducing their plastic footprint, nor have they committed to investing in reusables or refillables. Disappointing.
It’s Fashion Revolution Month!
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We’re fired up and ready for a big Fashion Revolution Week, kicking off tomorrow morning. Though times may be uncertain, what we know for sure is that the time for a revolution is now. The Covid-19 crisis has led to major brands and retailers shutting up shop and cancelling supplier payments and orders, without taking responsibility for the workers in their supply chains who mostly lack sick pay, paid leave, adequate health care and have no savings to fall back on. And beyond the devastating human and economic cost of the global coronavirus pandemic, seven years on from the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, human rights abuses, modern slavery and environmental degradation remain rife within the industry. This Fashion Revolution Week, we’ll look at CONSUMPTION, and how we can shift from a culture of disposability to a culture of care. We’ll dive into COMPOSITION and use our new hashtag #WhatsInMyClothes to call for a revolution in material responsibility. Through the lense of CONDITIONS, we’ll demand that each and every person that makes the clothes we wear, from the farms, to the fields to the factories, is seen and heard. Through our final theme, COLLECTIVE ACTION, we’ll stand with one in another in virtual solidarity and emphasise the importance of unionisation and collective bargaining for workers around the world. JOIN US, and together we’ll make this our most powerful #FashionRevolution Week yet. Artwork by @Ezra_W_Smith 💚💚💚
6. H&M tops Fashion Revolution’s 2020 Fashion Transparency Index?
According to Fashion Revolution, the world’s most transparent major fashion brands are H&M, C&A, Adidas/Reebok, Esprit, Marks & Spencer and Patagonia. (PS: Puma, Asos and Nike are in the top ten.) How in the world can Patagonia and H&M be on the same list? Well. That’s because the report ranks the amount of information companies disclose about social and environmental policies, processes and effects within their operations and supply chains. (Also, the report investigates brands with a minimum turnover of $400m.) Sarah Ditty, policy director at Fashion Revolution and the author of this report, says that it’s not an examination of how ethical or sustainable the brands are. She added that while there are obvious “elephant in the room issues” about the brands at the top (issues like greenwashing), customers should acknowledge that “some brands really are taking significant steps.”
The key takeaway? Ditty said it should be to look at the “big swathe of brands that are not disclosing any information at all” about their operations and supply chains. We’ve got mixed feelings, but what do you think?
7. Zalora commits to shaping a sustainable fashion ecosystem in Southeast Asia?
Following Global Fashion Group’s sustainability announcement last month, Zalora just announced that it’s going to be the first fashion e-commerce player in Southeast Asia to “establish a comprehensive plant to make a positive change”. The strategy has four key pillars, involving all stakeholders and relating to all aspects of its business. The pillars include: environmental footprint, sustainable consumption, ethical sourcing and responsible workplace & community engagement. Some goals include 100% of delivery and internal packaging incorporating sustainable materials by end 2022. 100% carbon offset from its operations and transport by end 2025. 50% of its extensive product assortment meeting its sustainability criteria by end 2025. a continued commitment to enhancing supply chain ethical standards and transparency. And, with its incoming private label capsule: for sustainable materials to be used in 40% of its private label products by end 2025.
So what’s our take? Certainly a good start, and a commendable effort with such a holistic approach. However, there’s no goal to reduce the amount of stuff it’s making. Nor is Zalora working with external parties. (Note: what does its own sustainability criteria entail?) Offsets also aren’t the best solution to lowering its carbon footprint. And above all, how much are they paying their garment workers?
If it sounds like a lot that we’re asking, it’s because it is. Because as a major fashion brand, we believe Zalora can and must do better.
- Allbirds: the first fashion brand to label every brand with its carbon footprint. And what’s the average footprint of an Allbirds shoe? 7.6 kg CO2e. For context, a plastic bag’s footprint is around 1.6 kg CO2e. (And a pair of jeans? 29.6 kg CO2e.) The tool they developed together with third-party carbon experts measures the carbon intensity of every decision along the way. Including materials, development, manufacturing, packaging and shipping. Ultimately, the brand hopes this launch will inspire greater carbon transparency in the industry. (Us too.)