UN Alliance For Sustainable Fashion: An Overview
The United Nations Alliance have joined together for “Sustainable Fashion” is an initiative of United Nations agencies and allied organisations designed to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals through coordinated action in the fashion sector. Specifically, the Alliance works to support coordination between UN bodies working in fashion and promoting projects and policies that ensure that the fashion value chain contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals’ targets.
Fashion, as understood by the Alliance, includes clothing, leather and footwear, made from textiles and related goods. The scope of the Alliance’s work extends from the production of raw materials and the manufacturing of garments, accessories and footwear, to their distribution, consumption, and disposal.
Sustainability encompasses social issues, such as improvements in working conditions and remuneration for workers, as well as environmental ones, including the reduction of the industry’s waste stream, and decreases in water pollution and contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.
Through the Alliance, the UN commits to changing the path of fashion, reducing its negative environmental and social impacts; and turning fashion into a driver of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Nowadays the Clothing and Textile Industry
• Contributes $2.4 trillion to global manufacturing
• Employs 75 Million People Worldwide (Mostly Women)
• Is responsible for 8-10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions
• 20% of industrial wastewater pollution worldwide originates from the industry
• $500 billion of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilisation and lack of recycling
Fashion and Sustainable Development
Actors in the fashion sector have a critical role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The fashion industry is a $2.4 trillion-dollar industry which approximately employs 60 million people worldwide—most of them women—and the scale of the industry is only expected to accelerate even further over the coming years.
Given its size and global reach, unsustainable practices within the fashion sector have important impacts on social and environmental development indicators. Without major change to production processes and consumption patterns in fashion, the social and environmental costs of the sector will continue to mount.
Furthermore, the industry is the second-biggest consumer of water attaining around 20% of the world’s wastewater and releasing half a million tons of synthetic microfibers into the ocean annually. In advance of the U.N.’s Economic Commission’s “Fashion and the SDGs: What Role for the U.N.?” forum in Geneva 2018, organizers figured out that the production of one shirt requires 2,700 liters, which is comparable to the amount a person drinks in 30 months. In addition to the environmental impact, the fashion industry is linked to labor, gender and poverty issues, which are also outlined in the SDGs.
As for carbon emissions, the industry is responsible for more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Part of these emissions come from pumping water to irrigate crops like cotton, oil-based pesticides, machinery for harvesting, and emissions from transport. The industry is responsible for 24 percent of insecticides and 11 percent of pesticides.
The dominant business model in the sector is that of “fast fashion”, whereby consumers are offered constantly changing collections at low prices, and encouraged to frequently buy and discard clothes. Many experts, including the UN, believe the trend is responsible for a plethora of negative social, economic and environmental impacts and, with clothing production doubling between 2000 and 2014, it is crucially important to ensure that clothes are produced as ethically and sustainably as possible.
“Many people succumb to buying seasonal trends that then get thrown away within a couple of months, and it’s just not sustainable. At the launch of the UN Sustainable Fashion Alliance we get to see people developing new fibers that are sustainable, have low water impact and low impact on the environment where they’re produced,” UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadya Hutagalung (2019).
Given its size and global reach, unsustainable practices within the fashion sector have important impacts on social and environmental development indicators. Without major changes to production processes and consumption patterns in fashion, the social and environmental costs of the sector will continue to mount.
Objective of Alliance
· Promoting Active Collaboration- The Alliance supports collaboration through the development of joint activities, including outreach events, research and new guidelines.
· Knowledge Sharing- The Alliance is fostering more effective knowledge sharing, by fostering transparency on best practices, data and activities of members via a knowledge platform.
· Strengthening Synergies- The Alliance works to improve harmonization and strengthening synergies between existing initiatives
· Outreach and Advocacy- The Alliance works to achieve outreach and advocacy with a unified United Nations voice, targeting the private sector, governments, non-governmental organisations and other relevant stakeholders.