Goals for the future
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Perspectives: SDGs x fashion

Goals for the future

It is an ambitious plan and time is flying. In 2015, the United Nations launched the Agenda 2030 with a strategy for a better future. The agenda focuses on 17 goals for a sustainable development that are causing a rethink as well in the textile and clothing industry, that is one of one of the major polluting industries in the world. One thing is certain - it is time for the industry to take action.

February 2021

The United Nations are keeping their eye on a big goal. They intend to create a better and more sustainable future for everybody. And it is about more than climate protection - peace, the battle against poverty and access to education are also part of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, which was signed by all 193 UN member states in September 2015. Developing countries and industrial countries alike are part of the global strategy because the current challenges can only be faced together. The centre piece of the agenda is formed by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The role fashion plays

One planet, nine years remaining, 17 goals. Half-hearted commitments to improve things are not enough to reach these goals, action has to speak. The fashion industry plays a big role in this because, unfortunately, a significant part of environmental pollution and global social injustice can be traced back to the fashion industry. Apart from these long-known problems, the Corona pandemic with its negative economic impact and other challenges in the textile supply chain have revealed more weaknesses in the world of fashion. The only assumption to be made is that something definitely has to change.

Sustainability in fashion has long been an integral part of the business of the fair fashion industry. But now more and more conventional brands are realising how urgent a paradigm shift has become. Because the textile industry with its complex value chains is an important lever for actively driving a change and ensuring that the future is a better place for both mankind and the environment. And that is indeed necessary - according to global trade union IndustriALL, more than 90 percent of people employed by the global textile industry have no say in negotiating their wages or working conditions. Another problem is textile waste. The “Fashion Waste Index” of sustainable start-up Labfresh from 2020 shows that, in Europe alone, more than half of all clothing items ends up on dumps, roughly a quarter is burnt. Action without a rethink would have disastrous implications considering the findings of a report published by Quanti, also in 2020, stating that the production and use of clothing accounts for roughly eight percent of total global climate impact. “As the blueprint to achieving a better and fairer future for all, the Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. The fashion industry heavily impacts most, if not all these challenges,” Kerry Bannigan, founder of the Conscious Fashion Campaign, told Texpertise Network in an interview in 2020.

Fashion weeks press reset button

Action is required - now. The fashion industry is aware of the urgency. Forward-looking, innovative and consistently sustainable - Frankfurt Fashion Week, which will be staged in Frankfurt from July 2021, will be a host to all those willing to contribute to the change in the world of fashion. Conscious Fashion Campaign will be the event's presenting partner together with the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP). Conscious Fashion Campaign was founded as an initiative by socially involved businesswoman Kerry Bannigan in cooperation with UNOP to help fashion companies better understand the 17 SDGs and integrate them into their business models. An important lever for cooperation with Frankfurt Fashion Week is to make the sustainability goals a requirement for all exhibitors. Companies wishing to present their brand or model at "The Ground", the new, hybrid business-to-people format, have to commit to at least five SDGs this year. All of Frankfurt Fashion Week's events will take the SDGs into account from 5th to 9th July 2021. "What we are doing is to initiate a transformation. This requires not only to fundamentally change existing mindsets but for all of us to have the courage to be transparent and honest. We need to see values and the creation of value as a chance rather than a controversy. We are doing what we do best, that is to bring relevant players from all areas together to network. Frankfurt Fashion Week with its ecosystem will become an enabler. We are creating a platform that choreographs the change across the entire industry," says Anita Tillmann, Managing Partner of Premium Group and co-initiator of Frankfurt Fashion Week.

It is a global change. For Copenhagen Fashion Week, sustainability also plays an important role. In view of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, the event set up an advisory committee and launched the Sustainability Action Plan 2020-2022 to turn Copenhagen Fashion Week into a more sustainable event and industrial platform. New York Fashion Week has also revised its concepts. The "Sustainability by Design - Rethinking New York Fashion Week" 2020 report from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Boston Consulting Group points out what has potential for improvement. The report is based on the 17 sustainability goals that show up the possibilities for more sustainability. Solutions range from alternative show concepts and extended online offers to the re-use of decoration or the staging of events in certified sustainable buildings and facilities. There is also potential in producing samples locally and reducing packaging waste. In addition, cooperation with local artists and charitable associations as well as dedicated sustainability events are likely to sensitise the public.

The future of fashion

Shaping fashion's future together works, among other things, when all industry parties involved are willing to commit to a change that is to become the "New Normal". The UN is also calling for players to have the courage to embrace change. With inspiring approaches such as the "Open Call for SDG Good Practices", the UN's Department for Economic and Social Affairs invited stakeholders for the first time in 2018 - 2019 to report about lessons learned, experiences and success stories triggered by the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs in their daily work. More than 500 "Good Practices" have already been identified. A second open call is now open. Since 2nd December 2020 and until 28th February 2021, companies can submit their tested good practices to inspire others all over the world. These opportunities and combined efforts can contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry, indeed even to a more sustainable world. There is still a long way to go, but the first steps have been taken.

Alisa Keil

#Sustainability #Climate goals #Sustainable Development Goals #United Nations Office for Partnerships #Conscious Fashion #Modeindustrie #New York Fashion Week #Frankfurt Fashion Week

Find more information here:

Council of Fashion Designers of America & Boston Consulting Group, 2020. Sustainability by Design – Rethinking New York Fashion Week.
Conscious Fashion Campaign
Open Call for SDG Good Practices
Frankfurt Fashion Week

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Photo: Flaunter


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