The United Nations has launched a new alliance aimed at uniting businesses to combat the fashion sector’s biggest environmental and social challenges, including waste, carbon emissions and modern slavery. Called the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion it was unveiled at the UN Environment Agency, the members of the collaborative scheme will identify “gaps” in the actions UN agencies are taking to solve fashion’s sustainability problems by championing a joined-up approach between departments. This analysis will be used to shape future UN initiatives, improve existing schemes and lobby national governments to change their policies in ways which will drive positive change across the fashion industry. As per UN, these actions could spur the development of new fibres and textile recycling technologies, encourage the industry to take more ambitious action and change consumer behaviours. The alliance has eight member organizations: Connect4Climate; the International Labour Organisation; ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative; the UN Development Programme; the UN Economic Commission for Europe; UN Environment, UN Global Compact and the UN Office for Partnerships – with fashion brands, retailers and suppliers being encouraged to sign up. The UN is encouraging members of the public to get involved in the Alliance’s work through a series of pop-up fashion installations across the globe, which will be used to showcase green innovations from the sector and highlight the scale of its environmental impact.
Consumers are increasingly engaging with sustainable fashion. They would prefer to buy from a clothing company which engages in environmental protection than one which does not.
The global fashion sector is believed to employ more than one in 10 working-age people in the world and is therefore, a key driver of economic growth. But the industry also accounts for one tenth of the world’s annual carbon emissions, five per cent of global water use and is classed – alongside technology and agriculture - as one of the sectors with the highest risk of slavery in supply chains. Between 80 billion to 100 billion garments and 20 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured annually, with the equivalent of a bin lorry full of clothing being sent to landfill or incineration worldwide every minute.