Fashion’s role to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals PART II


Alberto Bailin Co-founder of Lienzo

Image generated in Dall E

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was endorsed by all UN members in 2015, is based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These objectives, as we saw in our last article, attempt to bring about prosperity for the earth and people by addressing issues like global poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, peace, and justice.

Fashion plays a significant role in all this as one of the global industries with the biggest environmental and social impact. Today’s article will focus on SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDGs 14 (Life below Water)..

SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

From workplace discrimination to dangerous working conditions, exploitation exists in a variety of shapes and forms across all levels of the fashion industry. Garment workers are exploited, underpaid, abused, and often used as commodities. According to Fashion Revolution, approximately 98% of workers in the fashion industry are in a systemic poverty cycle, with their most basic needs not being met. This creates clearly an intricate linkage between SDG 8 and the fashion industry.

Even though there already exist some organizations trying to fight against all this,like the Clean Clothes campaign(1), the big fashion groups, both luxury and fast-fashion, should formalize respectful working conditions with policies that adhere to universal human rights. In order to be compliant with these policies, each of the objectives should be measured by several indicators, previously defined, which at the same time should be monitored over time.

SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production

SDG 12 is undoubtedly one of the most important SDGs for the fashion industry. To give some context, fashion uses 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources each year, and only 12 percent of the material used in clothing is currently recycled(2). There is therefore a clear need to move towards more circular practices within the fashion industry, both at the manufacturer and the consumer side.

In France, thanks to the AGEC law, fashion brands will have to provide consumers with detailed information about the environmental qualities and characteristics of the products they purchase. This will include information on reparability, recyclability, sustainability, re-use possibilities, recycled material content, use of renewable resources, traceability and the presence of plastic microfibres. This information will allow consumers to consume in a more sustainable way, something that today is still difficult.

SDGs 14: Life below water

SDG 14 refers to the conservation and sustainable use of our oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Healthy oceans and seas are essential to our existence since they cover 70 percent of our planet and we strongly rely on them for food, energy and water.

The fashion industry, which has been contaminating our oceans with an incalculable amount of microplastics and chemicals, must recognize the environmental, economic and social benefits that healthy oceans provide. On top of this, the fashion industry should also start proactively protecting our oceans. These activities would include: reducing the use of toxic chemicals to treat textiles, reducing the use of water used in textile and apparel production, creating materials out of recycled plastic to minimize the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans and other water bodies. In addition to this, and in anticipation of existing and upcoming regulations that might oblige companies to do these and other activities, the fashion companies should establish partnerships with water and sea life activist groups and non-profit organizations as well as start using sea life, notably algae, as an inspiration for textile development.