The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion – launched last week at the UN Environment Assembly – seeks to halt the environmentally and socially destructive practices of fashion. The alliance hopes it will “harness the industry as a driver for improving the world’s ecosystems.”
The alliance says it will analyze the efforts of UN agencies, identify solutions and gaps in their actions, and present these findings to governments to influence policy. These agencies include the Food and Agricultural Organization, the International Trade Centre, and UN Environment.
Fashion Industry Stats
According to the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion:
- The fashion industry is valued at around $2.4 trillion and employs over 75 million people worldwide.
- It is the second-biggest consumer of water, generating around 20% of the world’s wastewater and releasing half a million tons of synthetic microfibers into the ocean annually.
- The industry accounts for 8% to 10% of global carbon emissions – 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% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides.
- The average consumer buys 60% more pieces of clothing than 15 years ago, and each item is only kept for half as long. It loses about $500 billion of value every year due to the lack of recycling and clothes that are thrown into landfill before ever being sold.
Bringing Creativity to the Fashion Industry
The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion says it doesn’t see sustainability as a limitation to fashion, but rather a “trigger for bringing real creativity and passion into the industry.”
Because the fashion industry cuts across many sectors, the UN and its partners decided it needed an integrated approach that goes beyond individual Sustainable Development Goals.