The United Nations states that the fashion industry generates an annual turnover of 2.4 billion US dollars, with this figure expected to increase in future, and employs around 75 million people worldwide, most of them women. At the same time it generates around 20 per cent of the global waste water and is responsible for 8 to 10 per cent of global CO2 emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. The figures clearly show that without significant changes to the fashion industry’s production processes and consumer habits, its social and environmental costs will continue to rise. “In the face of growing environmental threats, there is an urgent need to radically change our consumption and production systems. In this regard, a more sustainable fashion industry has a critical role to play,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility.
To address these challenges, on 14 March 2019 in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, the United Nations and eight partner associations launched the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. With this the UN seeks to change the direction of fashion, reduce its negative impact on society, the economy and the environment and harness the industry as a driver for the realisation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These address social themes such as the improvement of working conditions and wages for workers as well as environmental aspects such as the reduction of waste, waste water and greenhouse gas emissions across the industry. The new strategy applies to all process along the supply chain, from the production of raw materials to the manufacture of the clothing, accessories and shoes and their distribution, use and disposal. The aim is to enable exchanges of information and knowledge, promote active collaboration and strengthen synergies, highlighted Marie Chartadová, President of the Economic and Social Council of the UN. According to UN Environment, the complexity of the textile value chain means that in order to achieve the SDGs, working in isolated systems is not sufficient. With the Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, the UN provides a platform on which institutions and businesses join forces to improve their practices. Further, it seeks in doing so to influence the private sector, governments, non-governmental organisations and other relevant interest groups. “By using fashion as a form of activism and empowerment, the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion doesn’t perceive sustainability as a limitation to fashion, but rather a trigger for bringing real creativity and passion into the industry,” said H.E. Siim Kiisler, President of the UN Environment Assembly.
Messe Frankfurt’s Texpertise Network and Neonyt, the global hub for fashion, sustainability and innovation, were also in Nairobi to provide professional support for a Fair Fashion Pop-Up Showcase. The exhibited labels such as Langbrett, Buki, Ecoalf, LangerChen, Nat-2 and Folkdays allowed the delegates and the press to convince themselves of the diverse designs and the value of sustainable fashion. Max Gilgenmann, Content Director for Neonyt, is convinced of the reach of the Alliance: „The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion will certainly put sustainable innovation in fashion and textiles high onto civil and corporate agendas around the globe. We'd love to see the new alliance to use fashion's creative and communicative power to give global game changers a strong outreach.“
The Alliance for Sustainable Fashion participated in the SDG Investment Forum in Sao Paulo, Brazil on 20 March and will attend many more events over the year in order to promote sustainable fashion, including the 33rd UN/CEFACT Forum in Geneva, Switzerland on 1 April, and the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, on 10 April.
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