The first sector-specific initiative under the auspices of the United Nations Global Compact has been announced with the UN and the Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical (NICE) joining in an effort to focus on environmental, social and ethical challenges worldwide.
In a report from the World Textile Information Network, technical textiles and nonwoven analyst Ms. Tara Hounslea, suggests that it is “no surprise that the fashion industry is the first sector under the spotlight, with issues such as low wages, migrant workers, corporate accountability and working conditions making the headlines on a daily basis. The textile and fashion industry’s impact on the environment no longer goes unnoticed either, as organizations such as Greenpeace raise awareness of big name brands and their more shadowy supply chains.”
Ms. Hounslea said the solution is a supply chain that works harmony. She cautioned, however, that such a solution is not straightforward since the textile and fashion industry is characterized by a complex production network which spans countless businesses and crosses numerous international boundaries.
The following is taken from the WTiN report:
While speaking at the inaugural World Textile Summit held in Barcelona last year, Mr. (Kofi) Annan (former secretary general of the UN) urged textile and fashion companies to work with their local communities to help bring about a better quality of life for workers and ultimately help the industry.
To facilitate this, the new initiative will develop a platform to unite the small and medium-sized fashion companies across borders to help tackle the global challenges the industry faces. It will comprise a set of guidelines, based on those of the UN Global Compact, but with a specific focus for the textile and fashion industry, such as waste, water, chemicals and welfare.
The launchpad for this new code will be the Copenhagen Fashion Summit on May 3, described as the largest and most important conference on sustainability and CSR in the fashion industry.
“Fashion has historically had the capacity to affect the society as a whole, and therefore fashion is a great place to start building a new creative future aligned with the ecosystem we are all part of,” said Eva Kruse, chairman of the Nordic Fashion Association and CEO of the Danish Fashion Institute. “We look forward to engaging experts and leaders of international fashion companies in the work of creating a meaningful and ambitious tool for the global fashion industry.”
Launched by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan some ten years ago, the Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally-accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.
Mr Annan asserted last summer that: “sustainable, healthy communities and good environmental stewardship lead to a healthy environment that is beneficial to all the companies involved.” Those who concur, or at least those who have already signed up to the UN Global Compact include Nike, Puma, H&M, the Pentland Group, Mango, Gap, Inditex, Levi Strauss and Timberland.
The fashion industry clearly stands to benefit from a universal set of guidelines for environmental, social and ethical practices, but what remains to be seen is whether the extended and complex supply chain will recognize what Mr Annan claims, that “doing good is good for business.”
Comprehensive information about the UN’s Global Compact may be found here.
Questions: Is the fashion industry a satisfactory starting point for the UN’s Global Compact implementation of fair practices throughout the supply chain?
What other issues might be logical areas upon which to focus in the effort to establish economically sound, yet fair, business practices?