The fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to ecological destruction, responsible for between 2-8% of global carbon emissions. The domination of the sector’s take-make-waste linear business model has alarmingly resulted in a normalization of fashion as disposable.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provides leadership to accelerate the much-needed transition from the current model of extraction, production, and disposal, towards a more sustainable textile value chain. This shift to a more circular economy stimulates demand for circular products through re-using, repairing, or repurposing.
“Addressing consumption is a central part of reducing climate impact - from the volume of new products purchased to the carbon footprint of how we use these products. We must work together to align all stakeholders across the fashion sector towards the 1.5-degree pathway of the Paris Agreement.”
- Steven Stone, Deputy Director, Economy Division, UNEP
UNEP believes that communication plays a fundamental role in fashion’s climate response. The Shifting the Narrative strategy focuses on using communication as a tool to increase consumer awareness, industry accountability and policy implementation. Furthermore, the strategy emphasises the need to incorporate storytelling for communicators, particularly within the fashion industry, to eliminate messages associated with overconsumption, greenwashing, and shopping for fun or for a reward.
In alignment with the Strategy for Sustainability Management in the United Nations System 2020 – 2030, Phase I: Environmental Sustainability in the Area of Management, UNEP has engaged in several initiatives to ensure that personnel are aware of the social and ecological implications as a result of the textile and garment industry.
Some of these activities include:
- A joint consultation with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Fashion Charter examining the role of communication in the sector’s climate response, as detailed in the “shifting the narrative strategy” above, which involved 160 diverse and global stakeholders. This resulted in a new commitment added to the renewed Fashion Charter announced at the Conference of the Parties (COP26), the most recent annual UN climate change conference.
- A Brown Bag internal presentation and Q&A session was provided for UNEP staff and affiliates.
- A flyer was circulated to staff, providing a short overview of UNEP’s recent projects and initiatives that promote sector-wide collaboration to accelerate a just transition towards a sustainable and circular textile value chain, while supporting sound management of chemicals.
- A three-year project funded by the European Union (EU): Innovative Business Practices and Economic Models in the Textile Value Chain (InTex) building circularity models, textile small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa to integrate a lifecycle analysis approach. An official global launch of the project was organized virtually in 2021. In addition, three local launch events were also organized in Kenya, South Africa, and Tunisia to enhance awareness and engagement. The recording of the event and the more details on the speakers can be found on the webpage here.
- The World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) 2021 accelerator session on 'Accelerating Sustainability in the Textile Value Chain: Inspiring Action and Behaviour Change' inspiring individuals internally and externally to the UN to make more sustainable choices and how they can be empowered to demand better from businesses and government.
Sustainable and circular fashion
Sustainability and Circularity in the Textile Value Chain Report
Communication must play a critical role in fashion’s climate response