Global coalition calls for sustainability to be central to post-Covid recovery in fashion, apparel and textile sector | WWF
Global coalition calls for sustainability to be central to post-Covid recovery in fashion, apparel and textile sector

Posted on 26 August 2020

Major companies, brands, associations and water stewardship organisations publish Open Letter during World Water Week 2020.
Severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fashion, apparel and textile sector has seen unprecedented disruption to its operations and supply chains. Across the globe, thousands of factories and stores have closed. Many are now reopening, but millions of workers remain in a precarious position.
The Viet Nam textile industry has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 with total export revenue decreased nearly 14% in the last 7 months compared to same period last year. The remaining months of 2020 is predicted to be even tougher as there are very little orders from importers for the last 2 quarters. According to VITAS, this year total export revenue of the textitle could be decreased 16%, compared to the last year.
As global operations slowly resume, 14 major companies, brands and organisations have published an Open Letter stressing the need for the sector to build back better and more sustainably from this crisis – to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic helps speed up the transformation of the sector.
Launched during 2020’s virtual World Water Week, the Open Letter’s signatories include multinationals such as H&M, Tchibo, Burberry and Primark as well as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, ZDHC, Alliance for Water Stewardship, CDP and WWF.
Other companies, brands and organisations can still sign up to the Open Letter to add their voices to the call for a more sustainable future for the industry (see contact info at the end).
“The fashion, apparel and textile sector has been hard hit by this pandemic, leaving the livelihoods of millions as well as the future of many companies at risk. As the industry starts to recover, it’s critical that it charts a new course that takes the whole sector in a more sustainable direction,” said Stuart Orr, WWF Global Freshwater Lead.
“Hopefully, other companies will sign up to this Open Letter and help ensure the sector builds back better – which is critical not only for the industry but also for global efforts to tackle the climate and nature crises,” added Orr.
As one of the world’s most polluting industries, the fashion, apparel and textile sector has a significant impact on planetary systems. According to 2015 figures, the sector was responsible for the consumption of 79 billion cubic metres of water, the emission of 1,715 million tons of CO2 and the production of 92 million tons of waste. Under a business-as-usual scenario, it is estimated these numbers will increase by at least 50 per cent by 2030, putting even more pressure on planetary systems – from biodiversity to water to climate – that are already failing.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has launched a call to action “COVID-19: Action in the Global Garment Industry”,which aims to catalyze action across the industry to support manufacturers and protect garment workers’ income, health and employment. This Open Letter is a complement to the ILO’s call, with a focus on the environmental aspects that need to be taken into consideration by the sector.
“Textile is one of the key sectors of the economy, contributing about 15% of total export revenue of the country in 2019. In the post COVID-19 time, the sector surely will be under great pressures to speed up its recovery, to increase its revenue and provide jobs for millions of people,” said Ms. Hoang Thanh Nga, Greening Viet Nam Textile Sector Project Manager in WWF-Viet Nam, “In this crucial time, sustainability and environmental standards could potentially be less prioritised, give way to fast recovery and development. But sustainability is the future path for Viet Nam to join the global market and if we fail, we would lose more than we get in a short-term. WWF is calling companies to sign this letter to show that Viet Nam textile’s sector is committed to sustainability and green practice in the post-COVID-19 time
Specifically, the signatories to the Open Letter call on other companies, brands and organisations in the fashion, apparel and textile sector to:
  • Support and encourage governments to deploy Green Economic Recovery Plans;
  • Maintain and strengthen corporate sustainability commitments;
  • Recognize the importance of WASH and pledge action;
  • Recognize the importance of nature, particularly freshwater ecosystems, in maintaining human wellbeing;
  • Increase brand-led sustainability efforts and ensure a role for circularity;
  • Enhance and strengthen supplier relationships; and
  • Enhance Traceability and Transparency;
With governments in the process of considering stimulus packages to help re-invigorate their economies and with the textile sector resuming operations, the signatories to the Open Letter understand that now is the time to “ensure that this unprecedented disruption is the catalyst for a new sustainable era for the sector.”
And the Open Letter concludes with a stirring call for action:
“Together we can ensure that the return to operations will not mean a return to the old normal, but a step toward a more sustainable fashion, apparel and textile sector, which is fit for the future.”
Signatories to the Open Letter:
H&M Group
Tommy Hilfiger
Calvin Klein
Bon Ton Toys
Sustainable Apparel Coalition
Alliance for Water Stewardship
If you and your company is interested in signing this commitment, please contact:
Ms. Hoang Thanh Nga
Greening Viet Nam Textile Sector Project Manager, WWF-Viet Nam
Ms. Angela Ortigara
Manager Water Stewardship
VITAS textile
Employee at a company that is part of the Better Cotton initiative
© Asim Hafeez / WWF-UK