Iconic Australian brand Country Road has unveiled its latest landmark step in its sustainability journey, launching the Country Road Climate Fund which will oversee the investment of up to $1.5 million in grant funding to projects driving climate solutions in the Australian fashion industry in the three years leading up to 2025.
“The Country Road Climate Fund is an annual climate impact grants program aimed at accelerating and incubating positive climate projects across the Australian fashion industry,” Country Road Brand Sustainability Manager Fabia Pryor tells Power Retail.
“The Climate Fund has been more than 12 months in the making and has come to life given the need and urgency of the times.”
Planning to allocate up to $500,000 within its first year, Country Road formally launched its Climate Fund project on Wednesday, highlighting its own sense of responsibility as a brand in the space of fashion retail to respond proactively to the recognised role of the fashion industry’s environmental footprint in contributing to the conditions of climate change.
“The fashion industry has a key role to play in addressing climate change, and shaping a positive future,” Country Road Managing Director Elle Roseby said in a statement, “Country Road is on its own journey to be a world-leading responsible lifestyle retailer. We have a science based climate target, with a goal to reach net zero by 2040, and by 2030 we aim to have all our Australian and New Zealand stores, as well as our head office and distribution centre, supporting renewable energy.”
“The Climate Fund was created as part of our responsible business journey which strives to drive positive change across climate, nature, and community within its own operations, and also through building positive outcomes in our value chain and beyond.”
Recent cataclysmic weather events being experienced around Australia have driven home the urgency of responding to climate change for many Aussies, with Country Road’s Fabia Pryor also pointing to these events as being a catalyst to further inspiring the brand’s embrace of contributing to sustainability goals across the country.
“The reality of the climate emergency couldn’t be more stark with the flooding currently happening up and down the country,” Pryor says, “This is why The Climate Fund has been developed, to help drive climate action within the local fashion industry.”
“We believe that partnerships are key to tackling industry-wide challenges and driving deep, long-term change. While there are many existing and innovative climate fashion solutions, many of these solutions lack the finance to be developed or deployed. The aim of the Country Road Climate Fund is to bridge this financing gap by investing in, incubating and accelerating climate solutions.”
In further seeking to contribute most holistically to Australia’s sustainability goals, Country Road has also expressed considerable pride in its concerted efforts to seek out the insights and expertise of Australia’s First Nations community especially to ultimately drive the Climate Fund’s ambitions, led by the spearheading role of the Fund’s Project Advisor Yatu Widders-Hunt – a proud descendant of the Dunghutti and Anaiwan Peoples from north-western New South Wales.
“First Nations communities have been caring for Country for 60,000 years. There is so much wisdom here, and so much to be learnt from these cultures. Traditional knowledge can be a vital contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation,” explains Pryor, “There is so much opportunity to drive positive land management and climate outcomes through projects that are centred on traditional knowledge and the First Nations pillar of the Country Road Climate Fund is built on this recognition.”
In building its investment strategy for the Climate Fund, Country Road has particularly identified a ‘four-pillar’ approach in identifying four areas of focus and importance to the Fund’s ultimate goals. Describing these pillars, Pryor outlines the pillars and the investment focuses attached to them as:
Biodiversity – Protecting or restoring nature and biodiversity (for example, a conservation project on a wool farm aimed at improving the state of biodiversity)
Circularity – Reimagining the textile life cycle from a take, make and dispose mindset to one which redefines the value of waste, keeping existing resources in use for as long as possible (for example, a project that enables garment renewal or on-shore textile recycling)
First Nations – Led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (for example, a First Nations organisation working with local cotton farmers to implement traditional land management practices that drive positive climate outcomes.
Innovation – Unique, disruptive, and game-changing technologies and ideas shifting the face of the fashion industry. We have made innovation its own pillar as there will be some times when a project doesn’t necessarily link to the other pillars as well (for example, a technology that dramatically improves the carbon footprint of finishing or dyeing techniques, or labelling technology that brings climate impact information clearly to customers to support purchasing decisions.)
And ultimately the fashion brand hopes its latest venture will serve to inspire other brands to follow suit, as the steps taken by Country Road not only centre its own sustainability goals, but further acknowledge the responsibility of the broader fashion retail community to amend its own contributions to the rapid erosions suffered by the world’s climate.
“We’re in a climate and biodiversity crisis and we all have a key role to play in driving positive change. While we aim to drive positive on-ground impacts with The Climate Fund, it also presents the opportunity to share the stories of those innovators at the forefront of climate solutions,” says Pryor, “By doing this we hope to galvanise further action, and inspire others to build a positive climate legacy.”
“The climate crisis is not something any one of us can act on alone – it requires partnerships and industry-wide action.”
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