Mar 15, 2019
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United Nations launches Alliance for Sustainable Fashion in Nairobi

Mar 15, 2019

For some seasons now Heron Preston has been one of the biggest proponents of eco-friendly streetwear. The American designer and DJ was on hand in Nairobi on Thursday to share his vision for the future of the industry during the United Nations conference currently taking place in the Kenyan capital. 

Circular Design Challenge "I was a Sari" took place in Nairobi on 13 March - UNEP/CYRIL VILLEMAIN

He was heard by an attentive and interested audience, as the UN is now planning to take a leading role in the development of sustainable fashion, in an effort to improve the practices of an industry with a significant economic and ecological impact around the globe.

Indeed, the sector generates some 2.4 trillion euros and employs around 75 million people worldwide. However, it is also responsible for 20% of the world's sewage and results in over 500,000 tonnes of plastic microfibres entering the ocean each year. Furthermore, the industry's cumulative operations reportedly account for between 8% and 10% of the carbon emissions on the planet. 

In order to face up to this challenge, the different bodies associated with the UN* announced the creation of the Alliance for Sustainable Fashion on Thursday, with the support of organisations such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which brings together a number of brands. 

Issues of ecological responsibility have been gaining ever-increasing visibility around the globe. And following a period of observation, the world of fashion has also begun grappling with these problems, with a wide range of industry players – from manufacturers to companies and brands – looking to do their part. Now they just need to find a way to navigate through this complex set of issues. 

With a number of diverse UN entities intervening at different stages of the value chain, the international organisation's representatives decided at a congress held in Paris last year that a common strategy had to be established, along with an action plan. The new strategy addresses the textile, apparel, leather and footwear industries, from the production of raw materials and the manufacturing of apparel, accessories and footwear, through to distribution, consumption and disposal. 

"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," explained Siim Kiisler, president of the UN Environment Assembly. 

On Thursday, the launch of the Alliance for Sustainable Fashion demonstrated the desire to allow the different agencies of the UN to speak in unison on this subject and to refocus on the organisation's 17 sustainable development goals. This list includes initiatives which aim to be both ecologically and socially responsible, seeking to bring them together as part of a unified strategy and give them the opportunity to share experience and knowledge. 

In this way, the organisation's objective is to become a platform that unites institutions, industrialists and companies in the hopes of improving their practices and optimising the dissemination of responsible ideals. In a sector where many are currently scratching their heads over best practice, the usefulness of labels and certifications, an initiative of this scale could well help light the way. 

*Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Trade Centre/Ethical Fashion Initiative (ITC/EFI), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) ; United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ; United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) ; United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) ; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ; United Nations Global Compact; United Nations Office for Partnerships ; UN-REDD Programme and the World Bank Group/Connect4Climate.

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