In partnership with Vivienne Westwood and backed by London mayor Sadiq Khan, the Fashion Switch programme will encourage brands to commit to switching to green energy providers by 2020. Other initiatives within the Positive Fashion campaign include sustainability, local manufacturing and craftsmanship.
“We started this project five years ago through a dialogue with Marks & Spencer,” Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, tells BoF. “It is our hope that the Fashion Switch campaign encourages brands and businesses to increase the demand for green energy, helping to accelerate investment and the rate and scale of renewables in the UK.
A number of companies have already signed up, including Kering, Selfridges, Belstaff, E Tautz, Christopher Raeburn and Stella McCartney. The scheme will give brands advice on negotiating contracts with green energy suppliers, as well as operating on an information-sharing basis where smaller brands can benefit from the sustainable know-how of bigger organisations, like Marks & Spencer. “We’re sharing knowledge in a series of really easily-digestible guides,” says Rush. “When you talk about sustainability in the industry, there’s a real willingness for sharing information because everybody recognises that the more we can share, the easier it’s going to be for us to collectively be more sustainable.”
The project was spearheaded by Vivienne Westwood, who has long been an ambassador for sustainability. “We’re at the point of no return, and if we go beyond it then there will be a chain reaction where everything accelerates, all the methane kicks in: life on earth faces mass extinction, and as the Pope has just announced, 'If we don’t go back we will go down,'” Westwood tells BoF. “People are really interested in fashion and it’s so important that we’re working with the BFC, it’s a fantastic place to start: the fashion industry. It’s a stimulus to get everyone else involved!”
Fashion Switch is a long-term project: energy contracts for businesses means change cannot happen straight away. “If we can get half the country to switch as soon as possible, it would have a global effect,” says Westwood, who has been lobbying other brands to commit to the cause.
“Vivienne is leading the charge on the switch to green energy campaign, she was the one who came to talk to us, she was the one who went to talk to the team at the mayor of London’s office,” says Rush. “No doubt she will be the one who is on the phone to other designers encouraging them to do the same.”
The partnership comes amidst renewed focus on climate change both globally and within the fashion industry: the much-publicised Paris Agreement — the biggest agreement to date — is set to commence in 2020. President Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement has sparked many conversations about the importance of taking action to reduce carbon emissions: brands including Nike, Adidas, Lululemon and The North Face have all rallied against the decision.
Rush hopes the Fashion Switch campaign is something that will be replicated across the other fashion councils. “It’s something we would look to collaborate with the CFDA on, and share the knowledge that we have here with sustainability and best practice, we very openly share information between the four fashion councils,” says Rush.