For consumers For business
25 Nov

Can the UN Sustainable Development Goals Change the Fashion Industry?

I’m scrolling through the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) wondering if they can really create sustainable change.

“End poverty”, “make cities safe” and “reduce inequality” are undeniably the worthiest of aims, but I can’t help this little voice echoing inside my head….it’s Cheryl, the Rhode Island contestant from Miss Congeniality.

I can see Cheryl now, gripping the mic with her white satin gloved hands and looking at me, eyes squinted and rosey cheeked, nodding sincerely and in her sweet, velvety voice she says “World peace Stan, world peace”.

I keep scrolling and suddenly at goal number 5 Emma Watson pushes Cheryl off the stage, “empower all women and girls!”, she rouses.

I high five her and keep clicking….number 6: ensure availability of water…..number 9: build resilient infrastructure……skip to number 12 and something interesting happens.

I’m confronted by a closed loop symbol and a mustard brown icon that reads:

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Cheryl pulls herself back up, fixing her crown and in her North Providence twang mouths  “sus-tain-able con-sump-tion and prod-uct-ion patt-erns”. The three of us look at each other wide eyed.

This goal is a humongous step for the United Nations towards many of the other goals listed on its 2015 agenda.

Let’s think about this for a sec, achieving sustainable production in the fashion industry involves the payment of a living wage to workers – this is a great leap towards SDG #1; end poverty in all its forms.

Sustainable production at its core also involves responsible agricultural practices (SDG #2) and rigorous management of water consumption (SDG#6).

There is no doubt that the achievement of these latter goals also forms the building blocks for reaching other aims featured on this fifteen year plan such as taking urgent action on climate change and promoting sustainable industrialisation.

Taking a closer look at number 12, its sub targets include encouraging companies to adopt sustainable practices and report on them and, by 2030, “to ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature”. This is where we, the consumers, step in.

The United Nations publicly recognises that without the engagement of citizens, government will not achieve any of the goals set out and so emphasises individuals as major stakeholders.

We know that while there are brands out there doing the right thing by workers, consumers and our environment , they are few and far between. Companies will not change their ways out of the goodness of their hearts, but simply because their customers tell them they have to, or else!

The Sustainable Development Goals will act as a policy guide for the 196 countries that make up the United Nations over the next 15 years and are the most specific yet ambitious aims we’ve seen yet. They are undeniably more focused that the preceding Millenium Development Goals and for the first time have put us, the consumers, on the agenda.

Consumption is something we do everyday anyway, let’s use it to make a difference.

Download the Good On You app to become one of the informed and aware consumers the UN is speaking to and let’s make sure this goal doesn’t end up the pipe dream of pageant queens.

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash.

Ethical brand ratings. There’s an app for that.

Wear the change you want to see. Download our app to discover ethical brands and see how your favourites measure up.