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United Nations Eco Conferences Prompt Fashion-Industry Action

Steps towards a more sustainable fashion industry have been taken at the COP27 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) currently taking place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt and in anticipation of the COP 15 (United Nations Biodiversity Conference) that will happen in Montreal on Dec. 7-19.

The first involves a new collaboration by the United Nations environmental agency and a nonprofit dedicated to improving the fashion industry. The second sees arguably the world’s most famous zipper manufacturer, YKK, being even more transparent about its sustainability efforts.

At COP27 this week Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced a new partnership to launch the Fashion Industry Target Consultation. It will be an online survey that asks stakeholders and partners from across the global value chain to share their insights on the industry’s sustainability goals and how to best accomplish them. The pool of those questioned will include brands, retailers, NGOs, manufacturers, data providers, innovators, intergovernmental groups, policy makers and others.

The survey, which is already open and available through Jan. 27, 2023, covers the five priorities of the Fashion CEO Agenda: Respectful & Secure Work Environments, Better Wage Systems, Resource Stewardship, Smart Material Choices and Circular Systems. Participants also have the option of providing their feedback at virtual regional workshops hosted by UNEP and the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion in Latin America and the Caribbean, West Asia, Asia Pacific and Africa.

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The analysis of the findings will be shared and the aligned targets will be unveiled in the 2023 publication of GFA’s “Fashion CEO Agenda” at Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition in June 2023. Assessments of the industry’s progress towards the targets will be published in issues of “The GFA Monitor” after.

“We know that addressing the complex matrix of environmental and social issues prevalent in the fashion industry can feel insurmountable–especially when acting in isolation–which is why we at Global Fashion Agenda recognize the unparalleled value of collaboration. We are delighted to be working with UNEP and to capture the broader industry’s direction for targets that will accelerate the fashion industry forward, united in its purpose for a net positive industry,” said Federica Marchionni, CEO of Global Fashion Agenda.

“Addressing climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss requires a collaborative and holistic approach. Together with partners within the United Nations and beyond, UNEP works to ensure a just and effective transition to circularity in which all stakeholders participate. UNEP welcomes this unique opportunity with GFA to consult with the textile sector, including on circularity, chemicals in products, gender, worker protections and business models to ensure all voices are understood and inform ambitions,” said Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, director of UNEP’s economy and industry division.

On the same day of the UNEP/GFA news, Japanese zipper and fastening company YKK announced that it has signed the UN Biodiversity COP 15 Business Statement for Mandatory Assessment and Disclosure by 2030 as convened by Business for Nature, a three-year-old international coalition calling on corporations to take comprehensive action to recover from the destruction of nature and protect ecosystems.

The statement, prepared in anticipation of COP 15 in Montreal next month, calls on heads of state to require all large businesses and financial institutions to assess and disclose their impacts and dependencies on nature by 2030.

The action piggybacks on YKK’s extant sustainability initiatives including its Group Environmental Pledge adopted in 1994, its Group Environmental Vision 2050 established in 2019 and the “YKK Sustainability Vision 2050,” which was released in October 2020 and converted the YKK Group Environmental Vision into concrete numerical targets.

By signing the statement, YKK now pledges to “assess impacts and dependencies on nature, disclose important information related to nature, prioritize the most critical issues and disclosing avoidance and reduction of negative impacts, and transform business strategies and models to restore and rehabilitate nature.”

In addition to these efforts, YKK is currently working to recreate the original landscape at its Kurobe Manufacturing Center by planting trees and creating waterside areas to realize the ideal of “a factory in the forest” envisioned by Tadao Yoshida who founded YKK in Tokyo in 1934.