UNECE Urges Fashion Sector to Embrace Sustainability

UN Economic Commission

Clothing production has doubled in the past 15 years, resulting in the fashion industry producing around 2.1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in 2018 – 4% of the world’s total – and causing major environmental, health and social issues. In 2020 in Europe, textile consumption had the third highest impact on water and land use. Tatiana Molcean, UNECE Executive Secretary, spoke at the Venice Sustainable Fashion Forum 2023, stressing that the current level of supply chain transparency in the sector is very low.

Ms. Molcean emphasized that the responsibility of creating a transparent and sustainable fashion industry is shared by businesses and policymakers, and can only be achieved through cooperation of all stakeholders, including consumers. Surveys show that 40-60% of people would be willing to pay more for products with better environmental performance and want to make more sustainable choices, yet this is not yet reflected in the sales of fast fashion companies.

UNECE, as a global platform to support policy coherence and alignment across sectors, has a key role to play to support sustainability and traceability. The organization has developed The Sustainability Pledge to help garment and footwear makers guarantee the transparency and traceability of their value chain. Through engagement with 100 companies across 23 countries, UNECE has shown the traceability of 19 fashion products across the full spectrum of the value chain.

Ms. Molcean called on all players in the fashion industry to join the collective effort to improve traceability and transparency, share relevant information with customers, and move towards sustainable fashion. Harmonized standards and criteria are critical for a shared understanding of sustainability at the global level and to enhance trust in claims. The Sustainability Pledge provides policymakers and companies with tools to identify, prevent and mitigate sustainability risks, and also explores innovative solutions, such as blockchain and DNA markers, to track and trace fashion products.

New legislation on sustainability is needed to drive the sustainable development agenda, however, it needs to take into account the needs and capacity of the thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that make up the majority of the sector, including in the developing world.

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