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Alliance for Responsible Denim Takes Sustainability Issue to the UN

The denim industry is heading to the United Nations.

This week the Alliance for Responsible Denim (ARD) is joining the 2018 High-Level Political Forum in New York City to share the positive steps its members are taking to make the denim industry more sustainable and better prepared for the future.

The aim for the Alliance, is to expand its reach—and hopefully, its influence.

“Through highlighting the achievements of our members and giving insights into the inner workings of a multi-stakeholder collaboration, we hope to align with other organizations who can aid in ARD’s mission,” ARD project manager Travis Rice, said. “For real change to happen at the speed at which it needs to happen, policymakers need to be made aware of the urgency, and the United Nation provides just the right audience.”

Under this year’s theme of “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies,” ARD will underscore the importance of collaboration by highlighting how its members are advancing post-consumer recycled denim, minimizing their water, energy and chemical consumption, and designing for circularity.

Founded in 2016 as an initiative from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Centre for Applied Research in Economics and Management (CAREM), House of Denim, Circle Economy and Made-By, ARD fosters collaboration and conversations between suppliers and brands with the goal of improving denim production’s ecological and sustainability impact.

While sustainability has become part of the common vernacular for denim, ARD found that many stakeholders felt they lacked the smart solutions needed to be sustainable.

“In essence, what we heard from both groups was a request for guidance. Even veterans of the industry concede that sustainability is too big a challenge for any one company to tackle by itself, and that it will take a joint effort by the industry as a whole to focus on the biggest challenges,” said Dr. Lori DiVito, professor and chair of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

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ARD often makes the analogy that the platform is like a classroom, DiVito added, and each member is a unique student. Just as in any classroom, some students come in already ahead of others, some are a bit more introverted or extroverted than others, some have the support of their family (i.e. colleagues and decision-makers), while others are testing the waters for the first time.

By working with global platforms and showcasing a united front, ARD says it can connect with the right policymakers and other “global do-gooders” to help scale its projects.

“We are presenting at the United Nations. That first word, ‘united,’ cannot be emphasized enough,” Rice said. “The fashion industry is not one thing, but many parts working in unison. To be able to enact real change in this complex system, all stakeholders need to rally around the cause.”