Fashion’s Mid-Term Report: Are We Reaching Our Sustainability Goals?

Photographed by Marissa Alves

Midway to the 2030 target, the UN Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network is convening the fashion and lifestyle sectors to accelerate action for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In a world easily defined by our differences, whether it may be the color of our skin or the language that we speak, one of the things that we all have in common is that we all put on clothes every single day. What may seem like an innocuous piece of fabric sitting in our closet, thought to be worn from time to time, actually has a consequential impact to the communities and environment around us. The United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network does not only recognize this fact but is unifying industry stakeholders, media, UN system entities, and governments from all over the world to utilize fashion and lifestyle industries as a force for good.

It is said that 1 in every 6 people on the planet is part of the fashion industry, working throughout its supply chain. Designers, garment workers, models, CEOs, founders, farmers, journalists, sales persons, and, of course, shoppers, are just some of the key figures that shape the fashion industry. As one of the biggest and most impactful global industries, every single person has a vital role towards the advancement of all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which cannot be overstated or underestimated.

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise referred to as the SDGs, were adopted by the United Nations Member States as ‘a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and planet, now and into the future.’ Heads of State and Government, as well as High Representatives, committed to fully implementing the sustainable development agenda by 2030. 

Attendees of the united nations conscious Fashion
The UN Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network have their annual meeting at the UN headquarters in New York City to discuss the sustainable development goals. Courtesy of UN Conscious Fashion And Lifestyle Network

Eight years on, 2023 marks the critical midpoint and a time to assess the progress that’s been achieved, and, more importantly, the progress that still needs to be achieved. It’s a crucial period to strengthen partnerships, expand successful initiatives, and to devise new strategies that will bring communities all over the world closer to the SDGs by 2030.

In line with this, the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network, which is a joint initiative of the United Nations Office for Partnerships and the Fashion Impact Fund, hosted its annual meeting at the UN headquarters in New York City. Over 150 network members, along with media, UN representatives, and other stakeholders convened to discuss actions, solutions, and significant developments within the fashion and lifestyle sectors. The meeting’s supporting partners included network members Calik Denim, Lenzing, Renewcell, and The LYCRA Company.

“Fashion has the power to be a key player in protecting the planet and reducing inequalities. By leveraging our platforms and influence for good, we can make sustainability our timeless statement,” Annemarie Hou, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnership, declares.

Annemarie Hou
Annemarie Hou, Executive Director United Nations Office for Partnerships, speaking at the UN headquarters in New York City. Courtesy of UN Conscious Fashion And Lifestyle Network

With July 2023 being the hottest month ever recorded in human history, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warns that the era of global warming has ended, as we’ve entered the era of global boiling. Now more than ever, with fashion being a chief contributor to global carbon emissions, with landfills of clothing seen from outer space, rivers discolored from toxic dyes, and garment workers not guaranteed living wages, steadfast commitments, innovative agendas, and practical solutions are necessary. As a dynamic online platform, the network provides an invaluable opportunity to impart ideas, advance knowledge, and encourage further engagement leading to actionable steps that will reshape the fashion and lifestyle industries as vehicles for social and environmental progress.

The network invites and welcomes participation from organizations of all backgrounds and in all corners of the world. With its close ties to the United Nations, the network has exceptional comprehension of how vital unity and collaboration are in order to effect lasting impact.

Among the network’s members and staunch advocates is entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Grammy award-winning singer Ciara. As an acclaimed artist with her own ethical fashion brand, The House of LR&C, Ciara has a unique perspective and insider knowledge of the creative industry.

Ciara, singer and owner of The House of LR&C, speaks at the UN headquarters in New York City. Courtesy of UN Conscious Fashion And Lifestyle Network

Ciara shares, “Fashion has been a passion of mine sine I was a little girl. To be a part of the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network annual meeting with my fashion house, The House of LR&C, was an honor.” She continues saying, “It reminds us and those in the industry that the efforts and decisions we make every day to progress our business in sustainability are a truly global effort—felt from the United Nations to the Philippine fashion sector.”

Philippine fashion is not only influenced by developments in the wider industry. The local industry also has the capacity to move the needle and create positive change. As Kerry Bannigan, Co-Founder of the UN Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network and Executive Director of the Fashion Impact Fund, emphasizes, “Sustainable fashion is a powerful catalyst for change and holds immense potential for the Philippine fashion industry.” 

UN Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network
Courtesy of UN Conscious Fashion And Lifestyle Network

Using the abundance of natural fibers that are locally available, collaborating with indigenous artisans, ensuring safe and healthy working conditions for garment workers, mending garments, and rewearing clothes are just some of the many ways that brands and shoppers can contribute to the advancement of the SDGs. As Kerry further underscores, “As industry stakeholders, consumers, and advocates, we have the opportunity to redefine style, create a fair and inclusive fashion workforce and reshape our planet’s future.” 

The more we come together, the more much-needed change can happen and the quicker it can happen. In the words of Annemarie, “Together, let’s weave a fabric of change that captivates the world and inspires transformative action towards a future we want and need.” The future of fashion, inextricably entwined with the future of our planet and the wellbeing of all people across all borders, is not only in our closets, it’s in our hands.

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