CNMI International Roundtable on Sustainability – Livia Firth’s Key Takeaways

Livia Firth and Carlo Capasa

Livia Firth was a speaker today at the third edition of the International Roundtable on Sustainability by CNMI in Milan.  Here are her key takeaways from the event.

Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI) today hosted the International Roundatable on Sustainability in Milan – an important forum for facilitating international conversation about sustainability in the fashion industry.

Here are our key take outs from the discussions:

The Sustainability Agenda is about Practical Steps

Carlo Capasa, President of CNMI, opened the day with remarks on how the sustainability agenda is very much at the heart of CNMI and the fact that this is about practical steps and not just talking. 

He also launched a new report on retailers completed with McKinsey Milan, called “Global Sustainability Report: sustainability matters, but does it sell?” and a new roundtable on social and fair wages – starting with a pilot project analysing 40 factories in Italy.  The report looks at the economic benefits of sustainability in marketing for department stores following a survey of over 80 department store buyers in more than 25 countries worldwide. The report found that, among consumers, 70% of respondents say they would accept a price increase up to 10% for a sustainable product.


Human rights violations are a danger for investors

Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights – a nonprofit supporting educational curriculum, litigator training, and socially responsible investing – delivered a keynote speech reminding us all about the importance of protecting human rights across the fashion value chain.

She has dedicated her 30-year career to the pursuit of equal justice, the protection of basic rights, and the preservation of the rule of law, with a focus on women’s rights and children’s rights; and quoted the groundbreaking report by NYU Stern on Bangladesh in her speech.

Left: Livia Firth with Arizona Muse. Below: Livia Firth with Auret van Heerden

She criticised the multi million dollar industry of factory inspectors for being so unreliable, and offered as a solution that factory workers and brands and governments sit together to solve the issue.

She spoke about how the investment community is changing for the better. Human rights violations are a real danger for investors and it is also imperative that investors go beyond financial algorithms and look at the impact on the ground to make sure their investments are leaving a positive impact.

Her message was clear – we can no longer avoid the link between human rights and the investment community.

We are all responsible for protecting human rights in the supply chain

Auret van Heerden and Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, Founders of Fair Wage (who also contributed to the Living Wage Report with The Circle), spoke about social impact in fashion and launched a pilot assessment programme on the Italian textile supply chain together with CNMI.  

Auret has recently returned from Ethiopia where he is working to make sure it doesn’t become a new Bangladesh.  “I can tell you there are companies there that are replicating awful models,” he said.

They discussed the following issues we are facing today:

  • We are creating a precariat – lots of precarious work as a result of millennials not wanting to work in factories and also uncertain conditions.
  • We are creating a more and more fragmented supply chain.
  • We are operating in highly volatile markets.
  • Retail business models are changing towards instant gratification
  • There is a shift in ownership of the problem as governments no longer inspect for child or forced labour but expect the businesses to report it.
  • Today we have no leader – who is calling everyone / the fashion community to solve these issues? It falls on all of us, to all the actors in the value chain. Who is protecting human rights in the global supply chain?

Daniel also illustrated the Fair Wage methodology and platform.

Financial community to look properly at Living Wage across supply chain

During a panel discussion on Responsible Investments and ESG (Environmental Social and Governance), Molly Minton, ESG Analyst of Amundi, spoke about the Living Wage Financial platform – a new initiative created by various investment funds dedicated to addressing the non payment of a living wage along the supply chain. So the financial community is looking at this matter properly now.