Livia Firth speaks at Sustainia

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Redress the World in 2017

In this fast moving and complex world, the pressing issues of today – climate change, environmental degradation and bio-diversity loss, food security, poverty, migration, gender equality, slavery – to name but a few – are all perceived as being disconnected, both from one another and to us as citizens.

But I fundamentally believe these issues are all connected and that this powerful interplay must be deeply understood by, business and the commercial world, and their complex supply chains made of living and breathing human beings, who face compelling challenges; Governments, supra-national bodies and NGOs; and ALL of us as citizens who must be empowered, become actively engaged and part of the solution – active citizens and active consumers.

We always think that we can make the right decisions, but we have never yet – in human industrial history – done so. People and Planet are always an afterthought.

We are also now faced with the 4th Industrial Revolution – and Industry 4:0 as we might also call this epoch, promises plenty of disruption!  But whether or not this is welcome depends on how we steer a course through change.

Should this be a question of making decisions predicated on social justice and ethics? I would say loud and clear yes!

Today we have choices to make and we should be the designers, the architects and the instigators of the future. It just can’t happen to us! It must be a collaborative process too. We must make the right choices to ensure that the youth of today are the informed leaders of tomorrow. We must educate the leaders of tomorrow, today.

For some time, Eco-Age has harnessed the power of fashion to talk about some of the challenges we face.

Why? Because Fashion is not only an all spectrum industry (from agriculture to communication) – but also the second largest most polluting industry after mining and oil and one of the biggest employers of slave labour worldwide.

The good news is that, as active citizens, we have huge power and we can truly drive change.

Look at what happened to the Uber CEO who joined Donald Trump’s Business council and had to step down when his business was deeply impacted by users who deleted the Uber app!

With fashion we have an even more powerful opportunity because – as you might have heard me saying many times in the past, the world is not run by naked people! Every day we get dressed so we can make a huge difference.

But we need to understand the system first.

Connecting citizens with what has been called one of the most critical initiatives of our time – The Global Goals  – is absolutely essential (and exciting!) if we wish to see a path to a more sustainable and just future.

Eco-Age recognises that fashion is connected to all 17 of these goals and therefore a perfect campaigning tool to activate citizens and shift the global agenda.

Because the alternative – and one of the most simplistic predictions around this epoch – is that, for example, we simply remove troublesome humans from the equation!

Against the backdrop of an exploding global population, the fear is that the Fourth Industrial Revolution could spell a social crisis on a scale we haven’t yet witnessed.

The dystopian nightmare, which we are all pretending we are not a part of.

But fashion IS a human industry – an industry that relies on and needs people.

Are we saying that we don’t want human involvement anymore?

Are we now saying that we are happy to throw on the scrap heap these 70 million people currently in the supply chain because we think we can produce more efficiently, even cheaper and even faster using technology?

Ultimately the real point is – whether more jobs in the supply chain will get automated or not – nothing should be incompatible with workers rights, with protecting that human capital.

And today we have a choice to make

Since the bar is currently low – how do we make sure this epoch and the Global Goals, which are now part of our solution – are actually a force for dramatic progress?

Today, thanks to these Global Goals, we have a 17 point plan laying out social and natural capital goals – no one (goverments, business and civil society) should be exempt from these, or from not understanding the intrinsic values of these goals, and the need to apply them rigorously and why.

To engage citizens and unleash the power of our wardrobes, Eco-Age has launched a powerful campaign this year to ask everyone to

“Re-dress the world”

2017 will be our call to action to “Re-dress the world” and make sure fashion claims its rightful seat in the global political agenda – some might find this surprising, but I most certainly don’t – as it’s the only way we will drive systemic change.

How is fashion related to the 17 Global Goals? Our team has joined the dots and I can guarantee you that every single one relates to what we wear. Because time is tight, I will just give you an example of some of the key ones– but I urge you to investigate for yourself and you can be helped with this by visiting our website to discover more about these connections.

I would like to close by reminding everyone in this audience about the last goal, Goal 17:

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.

Let’s not miss this great opportunity for a revolution which actually serves the interests of humanity as a whole.

This is, I believe, the time to look outwards and to think big and expansively and make the right choices so that our children can actually thank us instead of wondering why we let the apocalypse just happen.

Collective action is the most powerful of all – and the Global Goals are its most formidable ally.

Thank you.