The Global Goals and Fashion

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How is fashion related to the 17 Global Goals? Our team has joined the dots, in our Eco-Age guide to Fashion and The Global Goals.

1  NO POVERTY

The lack of universal legislation to guarantee a living wage has been fought over for years in the fashion industry, with no global resolution. As a result, the people who make our clothes still live in poverty, usually earning just half of what they need to meet their basic needs and take care of their families.[1]

2  ZERO HUNGER

Without a guaranteed, universal living wage (Goal 1), millions of garment workers suffer from malnutrition. They often faint at work while operating potentially dangerous machinery, simply because they’re unable to eat enough to see them through their long and physically demanding shifts. [2]

3 GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

As a result of poverty and hunger (Goal 1 & 2), the majority of workers in the garment sector suffer health problems caused by malnutrition. These include osteoporosis, dermatitis, respiratory problems, and fatigue, and are made worse by inhumane working conditions.[3]

4 QUALITY EDUCATION

Over 66% of the 875 million illiterate people in the world are women.[4] This percentage directly correlates with the number of girls being denied an education. With women making up approximately 80% of global garment industry workers,[5] there is significant need for quality education for all.

5 GENDER EQUALITY

Approximately 80% of garment workers globally are women.[6] Gender discrimination often runs deep in the countries where garments are currently produced, and women are frequently subjected to verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment.

6 CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION

A single mill in China can use 200 tons of water for each ton of fabric dyed. Many rivers run with the colours of the season as the untreated toxic dyes are dumped by the mills, affecting the health and well-being of both human populations and wildlife.[7]

7 AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY

The intense increase in consumerism and production, caused in large part by fast fashion, does not reflect the fact that energy is increasingly expensive, and resources are limited.[8] Energy and water consumption in the fashion and textile industry is huge, from production through to care and disposal.[9] Scarce resources such as oil are being used both to create materials, and to power industries and homes, making finite natural energy resources both scarcer and more expensive. As scientist Johan Rockstrom from the Stockholm Resilience Centre[10] says, climate change is an example of the planet sending an invoice for all of these ‘free’ impacts. We know that we must transition away from a fossil-fuel world economy urgently, but at the same time address energy inequality where millions do not have access to affordable clean energy. In short, our sector must act now if we are to provide a hospitable planet for the next generation.

8 DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH

Many brands have problems with labour conditions throughout their supply chains, including slave labour, child labour, low wages, and poor health and safety records.[11] The UN has established the living wage as a fundamental human right and one central to any real development, whether on a personal, household, local economic or national economic level in the producing countries. The deprivation of this right means that individuals, families and whole national economies are assigned a position as cheap labourers in the global market – with barely any chances to develop beyond a certain level of income-poverty.

9 INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE

The Rana Plaza disaster was not an isolated incident. Throughout Bangladesh, an estimated 90% of buildings do not meet building regulations, and disasters are a regular feature of the country’s industry, which employs nearly four million people.[12]

10 REDUCED INEQUALITIES

The garment industry is truly global, with value chains spread all over the world. Global brands engage in the higher valued parts of the value chain including branding, design, and marketing. They leave the labour-intensive, lowest-return and lowest-skilled activities, such as garment manufacturing, to firms in developing countries, with access to large pools of low-wage labour.[13]

11 SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES

The garment industry creates significant environmental impacts to communities and habitats, including pollution caused by textile and garment factories, as well as land and sea transportation. Economic and social problems arise due to increasing local migration from villages to cities, often caused by failing village economies, which give people little choice but to enter urban labour markets to earn a living. Women in particular, who have less of a role to play in traditional farm work, move to cities by their thousands, which over time is impacting both the social dynamic and economy of rural and urban areas. This large-scale urban centralization of low-income citizens has been seen to contribute to social tensions within increasingly overcrowded cities.

12 RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION

The fashion industry produces over 100 billion items of clothing worldwide each year, with 60% ending up in landfill within the same 12 months.[14] The Global Footprint Network calculates that today, humanity is using the equivalent of 1.6 planets to provide the resources we use, and to absorb our waste. This means it takes 1.5 years to regenerate what we are currently using in a year. By the 2030s, we will need the equivalent of two Earths to sustain us if current production and consumption trends continue. We must begin to make ecological limits central to our decision-making and use human ingenuity to find new ways to live, within the Earth’s bounds.[15]

13 CLIMATE ACTION

Fashion is frequently cited as the second most polluting industry in the world after the oil industry. Countries with large fabric and apparel making industries rely mainly on fossil fuels, including oil, for energy production, and it is estimated that making one kilogram of fabric generates an average of 23 kilograms of greenhouse gases.[16] The fast-fashion ecosystem uses enormous amounts of natural resources throughout the supply chain, while producing carbon emissions that fuel climate change.[17]

14 LIFE BELOW WATER

Scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.[18] Among other causes of this pollution, abandoned nylon fishing nets are huge killers in our oceans, decaying slowly and drifting for years, disfiguring and killing marine life and destroying coral reef systems. The fashion industry has started to turn these nets into fabrics, but we must act now to reduce and stop this marine pollution, and to retrieve and utilise existing waste.

15 LIFE ON LAND

For millions of people around the world, a degraded environment delivers hunger, brutal poverty and vulnerability. The loss of precious natural resources including forests, fisheries, clean water and land has disproportionate impacts on the world’s poorest, marginalised and disempowered communities who lack a voice.[19] The fashion and textiles industries contribute dramatically to environmental degradation; wantonly using dwindling natural resources. They contribute to deforestation by taking land to rear cattle for leather and by using unsustainable wood resources to make fabrics. They also employ the intense overuse of pesticides and insecticides. For example, while only 2.4 percent of the world’s cropland is planted with cotton, it consumes 10 percent of all agricultural chemicals and a staggering 25 percent of insecticides.[20]

16 PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS

The Rule of law is fundamental to better working practices in the fashion and textiles industries – where workers organisation and representation are frequently repressed, and rights to collectively bargain are routinely ignored.[21]

17 PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS

As an industry, we must jointly re-examine “business as usual”, recognising that everybody has a role to play in meeting the complex development challenges set out by the Global Goals.[22]

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