On January 14, Switch Garment participated in the European Chamber of Commerce Cambodia Breakfast Talk on “How can European Brands Meet Other Global Climate Goals in Cambodia?” in Phnom Penh.
Ms. Karolien Casaer-Diez, GGGI Cambodia Country Representative, represented Switch Garment on the panel discussion, attended by a representative from Adidas, Mr. Matthew Armstrong, and a representative from H&M Group, a RE100 member, Mr. Peter Ford. The event outlined the energy landscape in Cambodia and allowed brands to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face in meeting sustainability targets in the Cambodian garment sector.
Switch Garment works with key stakeholders in the sector, including Government, brands, technology providers, and factories, to break down the barriers to sustainable energy in the Cambodian garment industry, which employs more than 800,000 people and drives economic growth. “Factories that we engage with are starting to see that greening equals competitiveness. Thanks to initiatives like the RE100, factories understand that being green is a strategic benefit, and can help them secure contracts with international brands,” explained Ms. Karolien Casaer-Diez.
RE100 is a global initiative that joins together some of the world’s most influential businesses, including major fashion brands, committed to reaching 100% renewable energy. In their 2020 Annual Report, RE100 stated that 42% of new RE100 members are from the Asia-Pacific Region, showing that although it has some of the most challenging markets for businesses to source renewable energy, it also presents some of the biggest opportunities for green investment and growth.
Mr. Peter Ford, Environmental Sustainability Responsible at H&M Group in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar, outlined the practicalities of meeting renewable energy targets in Cambodia. “It is going to be difficult to meet RE100 targets in an area that is almost entirely coal-powered,” Peter explained, referring to Cambodia’s recent uptake of coal power. “Our [H&M Group’s] global targets are very clear: climate neutral by 2030 and climate positive by 2040. Countries that can work with us to meet those goals instantly become more attractive.”
The climate commitments of brands signal the urgent need for change in the Cambodian garment industry. International brands are under pressure to meet climate targets, and nations that can facilitate this will likely have a competitive advantage. Mr. Matthew Armstrong urged the audience to see this as an opportunity for growth: “Will brands grow and invest more if Cambodian strengthens its grid towards green energy? The answer there is an astounding yes […] ‘Made in Cambodia’ is a brand, take this as an opportunity to make this a better brand that we can be proud of.”
Beyond meeting climate targets, the event highlighted the potential and demand for green jobs in Cambodia. GGGI’s economic modeling found that increasing resource efficiency in Cambodia’s key manufacturing industries could create half a million jobs by 2030.
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