Initiatives Push for Sustainable Fashion
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The UNECE, ITC and the European Commission hosted an event on transparency and traceability in garment value chains.

In April, the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (CEFACT) organized an event on ‘Traceability for Sustainable Value Chains: Textile and Leather Sector'.

Civil society-led campaigns are working to increase public awareness and channel consumer demand towards openness and accountability in the fashion industry.

5 June 2018: Sustainable development is the new black, at least at the European Development Days and for a number of campaigns and initiatives working to increase sustainable production and consumption patterns in the garment industry. Efforts are building on internationally recognized principles and guidelines, and emphasize the benefits of transparency and traceability in garment value chains.

In conjunction with the 2018 European Development Days, which convened from 5-6 June, in Brussels, Belgium, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the European Commission (EC) hosted an event on transparency and traceability in garment value chains. The event titled, ‘Do you know where your clothes come from?’ discussed opportunities for ensuring a more sustainable clothing industry.

The UNECE-ITC-EC meeting was convened as part of an initiative led by UNECE and ITC to set up a multi-stakeholder platform and develop policy recommendations and traceability standards to guide the garment industry and contribute to SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production). The event addressed the many challenges to traceability and transparency, discussing for instance, fragmented production processes, and the prevalence of illegitimate subcontracting and undeclared informal work in garment supply chains. Participants gave the example of the numerous, up to 15 steps, such as yarn-making, weaving, and fabric-cutting, involved in the transformation of raw materials, like wool or cotton, into a finished garment. They noted how each step has its own environmental impacts as well as labor rights issues.

A UNECE press release points out that traceability can help companies identify opportunities for efficient and sustainable resource management, health risks, environmental impacts and labor rights. This, in turn, leads to increased transparency, making it possible to obtain accurate data and disclose it to consumers and the general public. In 2017, per the UNECE, one third of the 100 largest global fashion brands had traced and made publicly available their list of tier-one suppliers.

Preceding this event, in April, the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (CEFACT) organized an event on ‘Traceability for Sustainable Value Chains: Textile and Leather Sector.’ It highlighted the need for a harmonized set of traceability standards in garment supply chains. A 2017 CEFACT publication titled ‘Textile4SDG12‘ provides recommendations on achieving these standards. The publication “identifies basic principles, possible solutions, and provides recommendations for an international framework initiative on transparency and traceability for sustainability patterns in the clothing sector, in support of SDG 12.”

In addition to these meetings, civil society-led campaigns are working to increase public awareness and channel consumer demand towards openness and accountability in the fashion industry. They include #whomademyclothes by Fashion Revolution and the Transparency Pledge initiated by the Clean Clothes Campaign, Human Rights Watch and the International Labor Rights Forum. The awareness raising initiatives seek to increase public awareness and channel consumer demand towards more company disclosure, leading, ultimately, to a minimum, common transparency standard.

The ‘2018 Pulse of the Fashion Industry’ report published in May further explores sustainability issues in the industry. The report “aims to give guidance to companies looking to start or find further advances toward more responsible ways of doing business, by sharing proven best practices and defining bigger and bolder steps the industry must take.” Another publication, ‘A New Textiles Economy,’ was produced by a coalition of fashion stakeholders and makes the case for creating a circular fashion industry that embodies the principles of sustainable production and consumption.

Many of these ideas and pathways towards greater sustainability in fashion – as highlighted in these campaigns, reports and meetings – build on internationally recognized principles and guidelines that define sustainability requirements for the sector. These include the: UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector. [UNECE Press Release] [UNECE-ITC-ECWebpage] [Transparency Pledge] [A New Textiles Economy] [Follow the Thread: The Need for Supply Chain Transparency in the Garment and Footwear Industry] [Textile4SDG12]


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