While Western economies are more reliant on the private sector for environmental change, in China, this responsibility falls primarily on the government and their top-to-bottom policies.
For example, many government-backed associations are trying to implement and systematize industry policies to make them more sustainable. One of the key players is the China National Textile and Apparel Council, which aims to achieve global implementation of safer chemical management practices. However, Shaway Yeh, a special advisor to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and founder of YehYehYeh, a creative consulting agency focusing on sustainability, creativity, and innovation, was skeptical, wondering "how close the Chinese sustainability standard is to the global standard?"
To answer this question, large Chinese fashion corporations like Ruyi (which owns well-known brands like SMCP, Bally and Aquascutum) have joined forces on the global stage. Ruyi is among the few Chinese fashion groups to sign the recent Fashion Pact: an industry-wide environmental pledge aimed at aligning the fashion industry with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Another brand closely working with the government to implement changes is the Chinese cashmere maker Erdos, who claims to be one of the first 'green companies' recognized by the government as part of the "green manufacture 2025" initiative.
"This initiative asks to 'greenify' all production processes, including machine manufacturing, design, supply chain, and sales channels," said Wang Zhen, the CEO of Erdos, at the recent Shun Future Forum, a sustainability conference hosted by Shaway Yeh.
Elsewhere, all companies listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange are now expected to fulfill ESG requirements (environmental, social, and governance criteria): a set of standards for company operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments. This means all Chinese companies listed, such as Li-Ning, Anta, JNBY, and Bosideng are incentivized to become early adopters of eco-fashion.
As the country continues to oversee and enforce sustainable changes and consumers raise their eco-fashion consciousness, Chinese labels have complied and reacted to this demand. We have every reason to believe that China can step up to its environmental responsibilities, and if they can do it, perhaps the rest of the world will follow suit.