Meet Eva Kruse

Eva Kruse is CEO and President of Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), a non-profit organisation which looks fearlessly at challenges in the fashion industry and takes on the responsibility to innovate and educate businesses globally on ethical and sustainable mindsets as much as practices.

Eva is at the forefront of the movement to address the fashion industry’s most pressing challenges, generating pivotal ideas, inspiring cross-sector collaboration, and generally making things happen. The globally recognised voice on sustainability is a pioneer of implementing transformative action in the way fashion is produced, and leads by example in demonstrating that good values can be an organisation’s most valuable commodity.

Eva founded GFA’s flagship event, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, in 2009 alongside the UN Climate Change Conference, making it the world’s leading business event on sustainability in fashion.

Her captivating presence is supported by her long list of accolades in sustainability and change leadership. She is nothing short of a superwoman for the future of the fashion industry, and here’s what she had to say ahead of her appearance at the Festival’s 2020 Australian Fashion Summit.

With such an important pursuit on your agenda, how did this all start for you?

Ten years ago, the UN Climate Summit COP15 came to Copenhagen, and at that time sustainability in fashion was not on the agenda. I thought this was a major oversight as it was clear that fashion was a major contributor to the growing climate crisis (and many other environmental and social issues), so I saw this as an opportunity start the conversation within the fashion industry and to spark the idea of an actual movement in the industry.

You are living proof that one person can have an idea and make a difference. What would you say to individuals who believe their small contributions won’t have an impact moving forward?

Remember that even little things matter. And if we all do a little it matters a whole lot! And if you’re truly passionate about it, hold on to your idea and keep believing in it. I’m an optimist at heart, which has helped me a lot on the way especially in difficult times.  Another thing is to not work alone. It may be stated that I have founded Copenhagen Fashion Summit and Global Fashion Agenda, but it was by collaborating with brilliant people internally and externally, that I was able to bring my ideas to scale and grow them to where they are today. If you want to drive change you have to keep an open mind and heart and work with others.

What is the biggest challenge when trying to influence large companies to adopt sustainable practices and ethical philosophies?

On a personal level, leaders almost always admit that they feel a moral obligation to create positive change, but there is sometimes a conflict between moral views and business priorities. That’s why we need to emphasise the long-term business benefits of sustainable models.

You have said your mission is good for business, not a philanthropic quest, can you elaborate on this?

You don’t have to sacrifice long-term profit to be sustainable. On the contrary, our research has proven that sustainability is an opportunity to improve efficiency, reap financial rewards and it is a way of developing your business models to meet the demands of the future - both facing planetary boundaries, social justice and new consumers demands.

How do you think the fashion industry has evolved since you began the Global Fashion Agenda and Copenhagen Fashion Summit?

Since the Summit began 10 years ago the agenda has progressed tremendously. Back then the conversation was at a pretty immature stage and only very few brands were able to or at least willing to share their work and thinking in the space. That has completely shifted. Today brands, retailers and manufactures are lining up to talk and share. And most importantly we see a much more open a collaborative approach from businesses to unified commitments to tackle issues such as circularity, fair wages and carbon emissions and much more. The innovative solutions and sustainable materials that are being developed due to new technology are also really exciting. 

Though progress has been made, almost half of the industry, primarily small and medium sized companies have not yet taken any action on sustainability (meaning both social, environmental or ethical) and overall, progress is too slow to meet the planetary boundaries. It is urgent that they act now if we are to transform the fashion ecosystem. We’re fortunately (finally) seeing the policy and regulators getting their focus on fashion - and the right regulation plays a huge part in helping to push and support the right action taking. 

How do you keep your strength and motivation in such a tough industry environment?

It’s simply too important to not keep going. And although some days can be challenging, I can’t give up now, we’ve come so far, yet have such long way to go still. Just have to keep pushing harder.  

What keeps me going is thinking of my children, and what kind of a world they are going to inherit? Will they have to struggle with consequences of severe climate changes, loss of biodiversity, lack of natural ressources, growing social in justice, poverty…? Or can we in fact rectify these challenges if all of us - those in power today - pull forces, set bold targets and put action behind it and work together towards creating societies, systems and business models that balance people and our planet.

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