Although the SDGs are still a relatively new idea in the business world, a growing number of brands and retailers are turning to the United Nations–adopted objectives as a kind of turnkey framework for achieving ambitious environmental, economic and social targets. Broken up into 169 specific benchmarks, the 17 SDGs encompass poverty eradication, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, clean and affordable energy, innovation and infrastructure, climate action and education.
These SDGs, related to fashion, are coming into focus at a time of escalating discourse about the $2.5 trillion industry’s social and environmental impacts. In July, Marie Chatardová, President of the UN Economic and Social Council, characterised the state of fashion as one of “environmental and social emergency.”
According to the UN, garment manufacturing emits 10 percent of carbon emissions (SDG 13), produces 20 percent of water, is often linked to dangerous working conditions (SDG 8) and contributes to deleterious health impacts from the use of hazardous substances during production (SDG 3. These SDGs can serve as a nice menu for companies to understand where they are making an impact and how they can have an impact.