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UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion

An initiative of United Nations agencies and allied organizations to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Summary

The United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion is an initiative of United Nations agencies and allied organizations designed to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals through coordinated action in the fashion sector. 


History

The fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 2-8 percent of global carbon emissions. Although several United Nations organizations have made attempts to incorporate fashion into different sustainability efforts,  The United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion was launched on March 14, 2019 during a media event of the 4th U.N. Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya with the aim to halt the environmentally and socially destructive practices of fashion.

The Alliance is improving collaboration among UN agencies by analyzing their efforts in making fashion sustainable, identifying solutions and gaps in their actions and presenting these findings to governments to trigger policy. It is comprised of UN and specialized agencies including Connect4Climate-The World Bank Group, Ethical Fashion Initiative-International Trade Centre, FAO, ILO, U.N. Climate Change, UNECE, U.N. Environment, U.N. Global Compact and U.N. Office for Partnerships. 

The objective is to "coordinate the U.N. system's response to the challenges that the textiles, fashion and accessories sectors face in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development." Michael Stanley-Jones- the co-secretary of the new alliance told WWD. “Fashion is cross-cutting- so to capture the opportunity that fashion presents- the U.N. and its partners need an integrated approach that cuts across individual Sustainable Development Goals to realize the multiple benefits offered by the 2030 Agenda… Fashion demands a comprehensive integrated approach, one that stretches our understanding of joint action by producers, consumers and governments…"

Prior to the U.N. Economic Commission's "Fashion and the SDGs: What Role for the U.N.?" forum held in Geneva in 2018 the organisers emphasized that the fashion industry ranks as the second-largest consumer of water globally.. contributing to an estimated 20 percent of the world's water waste. "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 said at the launch event. 

The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion also creates a common platform and dialogue for several UN agencies that are working to make fashion sustainable: Food and Agricultural Organization is promoting Blue Fashion which uses sustainable marine materials and protects arable land- International Trade Centre has set-up the Ethical Fashion Initiative to spotlight artisans from the developing world- and UN Environment is pushing governments to foster sustainable manufacturing practices.

The implications of sustainable fashion are not confined to the environment but also its social impact as the fashion sector is intertwined with labor, gender and poverty concerns, all of which are highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals. "Research shows that fashion presents many opportunities for reducing waste and improving the environment. But the fashion industry cuts across many sectors, and so to capture the full opportunity, the UN and its partners need an integrated approach that goes beyond individual Sustainable Development Goals" says H.E. Siim Kiisler- president of the UN Environment Assembly. "By using fashion as a form of activism and empowerment, the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion doesn’t perceive sustainability as a limitation to fashion but rather a trigger for bringing real creativity and passion into the industry."


Goals and Purpose

The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion seeks to halt the environmentally and socially destructive practices of fashion, pointing out that the fashion industry is one of the largest consumers of water and is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global carbon emissions. Through the Alliance.. the United Nations aims to curb the destructive practices of the fashion industry. Its overarching vision is to catalyse a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable and equitable fashion ecosystem.

The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion operates as a harmonizing force within the United Nations system, fostering collaboration among various UN agencies. By scrutinizing their collective efforts to promote sustainability in fashion, the Alliance identifies both solutions and gaps in their actions. This valuable insight is then shared with governments to influence policy changes. Comprising UN and specialized agencies such as the World Bank Group, the International Trade Centre's Ethical Fashion Initiative, International Labour Organisations and more.. the Alliance envisions harnessing the power of collective action to align fashion with the principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

From a broader perspective.. the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion recognises that fashion is not just about clothing- it is a cross-cutting industry with profound implications for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. From addressing water waste to championing ethical production and consumption, the Alliance acknowledges that sustainable fashion touches upon multiple aspects of our lives. Moreover it aims to serve as a platform for dialogue, innovation and activism, fostering creativity and passion within the industry while pushing for a holistic approach to fashion sustainability that goes beyond individual Sustainable Development Goals. In essence the alliance envisions fashion not as a limitation but as a catalyst for positive change, weaving together environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic progress in the pursuit of a more sustainable future.


Impact

The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion has made a substantial impact on the global fashion industry by working to  foster collaboration and advocacy with a unified United Nations voice. By uniting several stakeholders under the umbrella of the United Nations.. the Alliance has significantly increased its outreach and influence and this unified voice has resonated with the private sector, the governments, the non-governmental organizations and other relevant players in the fashion industry. As a result, it has become a central force in driving sustainable fashion practices.

Through its commitment to collaborative efforts, the Alliance has facilitated the development of joint activities, outreach events and research initiatives. These actions have not only raised awareness about the environmental and social challenges within the fashion industry but have also provided practical solutions and guidelines for improvement. By promoting harmonisation and synergy among existing initiatives.. the Alliance has helped streamline sustainability efforts.. reducing duplication of work and increasing the overall effectiveness of sustainable fashion initiatives.

In the long term, the impact of UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion will be enduring. Its focus on collaboration, advocacy and harmonisation ensures that the fashion industry will continue to evolve towards greater sustainability. By bringing together diverse stakeholders and providing a unified platform for action, the Alliance is paving the way for a more responsible and ethical fashion industry that aligns with global sustainability goals and addresses critical environmental and social issues.


References
UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion
Leadership team

Simone Cipriani ( ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative)

Chloe Mukai (ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative)

Bettina Heller (United Nations Environment Programme)

H.E. Siim Kiisler (President of the UN Environment Assembly)

Naoko Ishii (CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility)

Type
Foundation
Region served
Worldwide
Year stablished
2019
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