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How Prada and UNESCO Will Raise ‘Ocean Awareness’

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Oceans cover 71 percent of Earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the planet’s water, yet most of us know so little about these massive yet mysterious bodies other than they’re there. And very wet.

Prada wants to change that. For the next four months, the Italian luxury house will partner with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to help secondary educators around the world teach their students about ocean sustainability and the circular economy, which recaptures resources instead of letting them go to waste.

The goal, Prada said Wednesday, is to “educate and raise awareness among the new generation” about adopting more mindful behaviors toward the ocean while “promoting an attitude of sustainable consumption” in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to protect the planet and its most vulnerable communities.

“The global scale of the problems facing the ocean means that no single country or organization can fix them all,” Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of the IOC and assistant director general of UNESCO, said in a statement. “We need partnerships across science, decision-makers and the private sector to create a sustainable ocean economy that uses the ocean but also preserves and cherishes it.”

Together with Prada, Ryabinin said he hopes to mobilize students worldwide around these ideas, thereby “transforming their energy and creativity into a vector toward a more ocean-literate society.”

From February to May, high-school teachers from 10 cities (Berlin, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Lisbon, London, Milan, New York, Paris, Shanghai and Venice) will engage in webinars through which they’ll learn how to develop a module of four lessons devoted to the theme of sustainability. The first three lessons will help students explore the importance of oceans and the threat of single-use plastics to marine ecosystems. The fourth will ask students to create an awareness campaign for ocean conservation.

In May, an international jury comprising members from Prada, UNESCO and others will choose the winning campaign, which will be featured at UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission at the Second United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon from June 2 to 6. It will also be presented on Prada and UNESCO channels, as well as on pradagroup.com.

The project follows the launch of Prada’s own capsule collection of Re-Nylon bags and outerwear derived from ocean plastic and textile waste. A portion of proceeds from the sale of Re-Nylon will help finance the educational program through a donation to UNESCO’s IOC.

Indeed, plastic is one of the ocean’s biggest threats. Studies have shown that 8 million tons of plastic trash end up in the oceans globally each year.

Lorenzo Bertelli, head of marketing at Prada, called the promotion of culture and education an “integral part” of the house’s sustainability strategy, which includes eschewing virgin nylon by 2021 and procuring the luxury industry’s first sustainability-linked loan. Prada is also a signatory of the Kering-spearheaded G7 Fashion Pact, which broadly addresses issues such as climate change, ocean protection and biodiversity.

“The collaboration with UNESCO embraces this path and translates it into a direct channel of communication with students around the world,” he said. “We are proud to see the creation of an ocean awareness project from what was initially a product innovation and sustainable materials initiative.”

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