2023 Compassion in Fashion Forum: Fur Free for the Green Development of the Industry

Pressure is mounting on the fashion industry to be kinder and more sustainable. On Tuesday, April 18th, ACTAsia had the pleasure of hosting our fascinating bi-annual Compassion in Fashion Forum, part of our 9th International Sustainable Fur Free Fashion Festival that takes part in China.

As the largest manufacturer and exporter of fur and a significant contributer of fast fashion in the world, China’s fashion industry has major implications upon global climate change and health. These implications make ACTAsia’s initiative especially urgent. They highlight a need to educate consumers and professionals about sustainable and fur free fashion. It is vital to equip individuals and corporations alike with tools to promote an ethical industry in places where it is most needed. Compassion in Fashion has received UN recognition as part of the ​​Conscious Fashion + Lifestyle Network, and continues to work to accelerate progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

‘Fur free is the first step toward sustainability,’ declares Echo Liu, Head of Programmes at ACTAsia China. 

Held as part of AW2023 official Shenzhen Fashion Week, the theme for ACTAsia’s Compassion in Fashion Forum was ‘Fur Free for the Green Development of the Industry’. In the face of immense levels of cruelty, waste and carbon emissions produced by the fashion industry, the Compassion in Fashion Forum was a riveting and mobilising appeal for change. 

ACTAsia’s transdisciplinary Forum welcomed experts in the government, academia, fur free sustainable design and retail. We are grateful to have partnered with the Shenzhen Garment Industry Association (SGIA) and conservation giant China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) for the event.  Through the forum, ACTAsia seeks to connect leaders from the fashion industry and academia. It provides a way to learn from the innovative ways people are making the industry more sustainable and eliminating the use of fur. Speakers shared their valuable industry knowledge along with their inspirational work in shaping a greener future in fashion.

The Dangerous State of the Current Fashion Industry: in Dire Need of Change 

‘Climate change, loss of biodiversity and public health are among the multiple global crises that threaten our existence, cautions Yutong Ziong of CBCGDF. ‘The fashion industry, including the fur industry consumes a large amount of natural resources, having a huge impact not only on our climate, but on biodiversity and health.’ 

According to Dr. Xu Lijie of the Shenzhen Institute of Standards and Technology (SIST), ‘The global fashion industry generated 2.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.’ This equates to an enormous 4% of global emissions. The consumption of natural resources involved in the life cycle of the fur industry, from raw materials to finished garments, is staggering. The production of 1 kg of fur has a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) factor of 130-140 kg. Moreover, fast fashion has become a pandemic. ‘More than 100 billion pieces of clothing are discarded annually,’ Dr. Xu continues, ‘In China alone, more than 26 million tonnes of used clothing are thrown away each year, going into landfill plants or waste incinerators.’ With pollution levels at the heels of petrochemicals, the biggest source of pollution in the world, the fashion industry is projected to become the largest polluter within the next 7 years.  

‘We are calling on participants and enterprises to take concrete actions to lower carbon emissions in an attempt to address climate change and demonstrate an environmental protection vision,’ asserts Ming Pan, President of the Shenzhen Garment Industry Association (SGIA). 

Green is the New Black: Moving Forward Harmoniously 

The time is ripe. Reverberating throughout the Compassion in Fashion Forum was that repairing the fashion industry and promoting its green development, is fundamental to both meeting consumer needs and investing in a liveable future. 

Dr. Xu discussed standards such as the carbon footprint and carbon-labelling for products. These are innovative, transparent strategies for brands/producers to work towards carbon neutrality and consumers to align their ethics with purchasing power. We learned about the incredible work Dr. Xu is doing at SIST to build a public service platform to evaluate carbon emissions for product brands and inform consumers. 

Strategies for Change: New Values, New Approaches 

‘Introducing new values in fashion (ethics, storytelling) is the only way to de-grow.’ 

José Teunissen, Director of Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI)

The values and environmental priorities of younger generations are reflected in their fashion consumption habits. In the face of global crises, brand loyalty is diminishing. ‘Generation Z cares more about whether the system value of a brand matches up with their own,’ shares Lupi Yao, trend director at Worth Global Style Network China (WGSN) and keynote speaker at ACTAsia’s Compassion in Fashion Forum. This is but one signal of the need for the sustainable transformation of the fashion industry. 

Sijia Jiang’s presentation was an incredible example of what fashion that promotes caring for the environment and animals looks like. As Director and Founder of the Chinese sustainable fashion brand SIJIASUDIO, Sijia is a Gen-Z designer who embeds resource retention and circularity into original, cruelty-free womenswear. Her journey in building a successful sustainable, fur-free brand and overcoming associated challenges is an inspirational reminder that ethical fashion is indeed in reach and holds an important place amongst coming-of-age generations. 

The global project of de-growing and reducing emissions is complex, demanding involvement from all sectors. Action begins with education. Events such as the Compassion in Fashion Forum provide pathways for consumer awareness, strategies for the industry to reduce emissions, and for responding to shifting socio-cultural values towards ethical, sustainable fashion. ‘The future of fashion is transdisciplinary, collaborative and conceptual,’ shared José Teunissen of the AMFI. We must ‘use education to develop talent and direct more energy toward the development of a sustainable fashion industry.’ 

Thank you to our hosts and our incredible speakers for sharing their expertise at ACTAsia’s Compassion in Fashion Forum, part of the 9th Fur Free and Sustainable Festival! 

Invaluably productive educational exchanges such as the Compassion in Fashion Forum, which facilitate sustainable collaboration amongst innovative thinkers, are expensive and difficult to coordinate. ACTAsia’s ongoing commitment to sharing knowledge and promoting caring, sustainable practices in fashion and all other sectors of life are only made possible due to the kindness and generosity of the community.

Thank you for your ongoing support – if you wish to donate to ACTAsia, please click here!

You can watch the Compassion in Fashion Forum: Fur Free for the Green Development of the Industry here!