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When Cecilie Thorsmark was appointed new CEO of Copenhagen Fashion Week in 2018, she brought with her an even greater focus on sustainability.

“Sustainability is the core tenet to our vision, as a forward thinking representation of Nordic talent to our global community,” she contends.

Since then, many actions have been taken to elevate the biannual event to a reference point for sustainable fashion. Partnering with the Danish consultancy firm In Futurum, CPH Fashion Week strives to position itself as a beacon of change in one of the most criticized industries of recent years. 

A Three-Year Sustainability Action Plan

In 2020, CPH Fashion Week launched a three-year sustainability action plan based on the three pillars of reducing, innovating, and accelerating.

The ambitious project includes goals such as reducing the event's carbon footprint by 50% by 2023 and going completely zero waste by 2022. The actions are inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and strive to transform not only Fashion Week, but the entire industry.

The second part of the plan aims to help the industry transition to more sustainable business practices. By 2023, brands will have to meet 17 minimum standards to be featured in the CPH Fashion Week. Additionally, they will be given a sustainability score, which evaluates practices in six main focus areas: strategic direction, design, material choice, working conditions, consumer engagement. Lastly, shows will be closely scrutinized in order to assess if they are in line with the Scandinavian Fashion Week values.

Going Fully Digital

CPH Fashion Week is not all talking and no doing. Their 2021 event, running from the 2nd to the 4th of February, is their most sustainable to date. Their website is already carbon neutral, and the event carbon emissions are offset through tree planting and forest conservation. Single-use plastic is banned and featured designers are inquired on what actions and projects they are carrying out to reduce their environmental impact.

As per tradition, the opening show features a value-driven brand. This year is Stockholm-based Schnayderman, who will do the honors, boasting made-in-Europe fabrics and a transparent supply chain.

This year the digitalization of all the shows was made mandatory due to Denmark’s covid-19 restrictions. Nonetheless, it goes in line with CPH Fashion Week’s goal to adopt more digital solutions that minimize traveling and carbon emissions.

Teaming Up With Zalando

2021 also marks the launch of the Zalando Sustainability Award at CPH Fashion Week – an award that aims, among other things, to encourage fashion brands to explore sustainable alternatives.

This award is part of the German marketplace giant strategy, which has been moving closer to greener business practices by introducing sustainability requirements and launching its second-hand selling platform.

Stockholm’s House of Dagmar and Finnish Marimekko are currently the two finalists and they will be competing for a 20,000 euros prize and the chance to develop an exclusive capsule collection with Zalando. The award will help Zalando in their sustainable pursuit and motivate brands to up their environmental focus.

The Responsibility Revolution

CPH Fashion Week is at the forefront of a revolution that is taking the industry by storm. It is becoming clearer and clearer that investing in sustainability is the only way to remain ahead of the curve.

Hopefully, its efforts to facilitate a more responsible industry will create a ripple effect towards a future where sustainable actions are not a point of differentiation, but rather a standard everyone feels the need to raise to.