Anyone working on environmental issues has been watching the results of the Presidential election closely.
Trump is a known climate change denier who’s not only promised to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, arguably our greatest hope at mitigating the effects of global warming, but has also called climate change a hoax, threatened to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, and committed to pushing for oil pipelines and other controversial energy infrastructure.
Who then, if not government, should we be looking to to protect environmental interests? And what does this mean for sustainable fashion?
The past few weeks have seen an interesting range of responses from brands and business leaders within the sector who, consciously or not, have got caught up in politics.
There was the PR crisis of New Balance following a single quote of endorsement by its VP of public affairs who said “with President-elect Trump, we believe things are going to move in the right direction” with regards to the TPP.
Last week, Patagonia announced it will donate 100% of its global sales from Black Friday to environmental causes in the face of Trump’s belief that “climate change is a myth”, and Designer Sophie Theallet, who’s previously dressed Michelle Obama, publicly refused to style the next first lady. She said:
“Despite the fact that it’s not wise to get involved in politics…the rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by [Trump] are incompatible with the shared values we live by.”
Sitting on the fence is no longer an option when it comes to environmental issues.
As Scott Nadler in his post Corporate Sustainability Under Trump explains, “we now know government isn’t going to ride in and save us on climate change.”
“Government isn’t going to set the standards or raise the bar. And for those of us in business, that means it’s on us.”
It’s an interesting time for the sector as pressure for businesses to take ever-increasing environmental responsibility mounts.
While there have been a range of new initiatives to support more environmental-friendly fashion production in recent years, the election of Trump seems to hint at a shift to undermine this effort.
If we’re to see this trend continue, businesses, more than ever, will need to go beyond minimum — legal — regulations and instead, take the lead.
And it will be brave individuals within business and brands, as we’ve seen demonstrated by Sophie Theallet and Patagonia, who will continue to move this agenda forward.
Image: Tim Walker for Vogue