UN launches sustainable fashion initiative

The fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and responsible for 8 to 10 per cent of global carbon emissions. The new UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion will work to change this.

Launched at last week’s UN Environment Assembly, the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion will work to make the environmentally and socially destructive practices of the fashion industry decidedly unfashionable.

According to a press release, the industry is the second-biggest consumer of water, generating some 20 per cent of the world’s wastewater and releasing half a million tonnes of synthetic microfibres into the ocean each year. It is also a responsible for a staggering 8 to 10 per cent of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, as well as 24 per cent of all insecticide use and 11 per cent of all pesticide use.

What’s more, it is key driver of a over-consumption and waste: the average consumer buys 60 per cent more pieces of clothing today than they did 15 years ago, and each item is only kept for half as long.

“Many people succumb to buying seasonal trends that then get thrown away within a couple of months, and it’s just not sustainable,” says Nadya Hutagalung, a popular Indonesian-Australian conservationist and media personality.

The Alliance will instead work to harness the industry as a driver for improving the world’s ecosystems. At its launch, for example, 10 to 20 key players in sustainability presented their vision for the future of environmentally friendly fashion, showcasing sustainable designs and materials with a low water or environmental impact.

But the implications of sustainable fashion go far beyond the environment: greening the value chain can bring tremendous social impacts, such as creating new jobs and opportunities for rural workers, particularly smallholder farmers or those working in forestry.

The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion serves as a common platform and dialogue for several UN agencies that are working to make fashion sustainable, including the Food and Agricultural Organization, the International Trade Centre and UN Environment.

“The fashion industry cuts across many sectors,” said H.E. Siim Kiisler, President of the UN Environment Assembly, “and so to capture the full opportunity, the UN and its partners need an integrated approach that goes beyond individual Sustainable Development Goals.”

Image credit: Lauren Fleischmann via Unsplash

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