Published on 23 May 2019
Yesterday, many of the UK’s leading high street retailers and iconic fashion houses attended a special event in London at Techspace, Shoreditch. Ethical fashion was under the spotlight at ‘Forests for Fashion – from forest to wardrobe’ – hosted by PEFC, the world’s largest forest and wood product certification system. Pioneering industry specialists discussed the new wave of technologies using wood fibres to produce recyclable, renewable and biodegradable textiles. Talks and discussions during the day centred on how, as a society, we need to better understand the connection between what we wear and the environment.
Leonie Meier, from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) FAO Forestry & Timber Section, emphasised how the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) are key to driving change. “10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are emitted by the fashion industry,” said Leonie. “The industry needs to change its consumption habits to reduce water use, radically improve recycling and phase out substances of concern that contribute to harmful micro-fibre release into the eco-system.” Leonie illustrated how the fashion industry can improve its social and environmental performance by aligning with the SDGs to gain a competitive advantage and boost business.
“Approach us to work with the UN on achieving the SDGs,” urged Leonie. “Work with UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section on promoting sustainable materials, get involved in our upcoming events and use the SDGs as a business opportunity. It is time for the fashion industry to do more to help safeguard the environment.”
Participants were drawn from across the UK fashion retail sector including John Lewis, River Island, Burberry, Arcadia, Ted Baker, Oasis, Fat Face and All Saints. The fashion industry is valued at more than 2.5 trillion dollars and employs over 75 million people worldwide. Leading brands and fashion consortiums are becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impacts associated with the textile industry.
Currently, almost 65% of global fabric consumption consists of synthetic fibres derived from fossil fuels, whilst much of the remainder is made up of cotton – a water and pesticide-intensive crop. Opening the event, Tamsin Lejeune, Founder and CEO of the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF) and Common Objective (CO), said: “Despite good intentions, CO’s research shows that the ‘sale of fashion’ that is actively promoted as sustainable and ethical, is less than 1% of the retail offering in the UK. If fashion were a country it would be the world’s fourth largest CO2 emitter. At the moment 7% of textiles are produced from wood fibres but this is expected to grow to 30% by 2023. Let’s build a fashion industry that works better for everyone and the planet.”
Other highlights included Liesl Truscott from the Textile Exchange explaining more about the organic cotton transformation journey and Susanna Koelbin, Business Development Manager, Eastman Naia, who illustrated the innovative route taken from responsibly-sourced wood to sustainable cellulosic yarn. Alun Watkins who heads up PEFC in the UK found the event incredibly useful commenting: “It was a fantastic and very thought-provoking day. PEFC is proud to be supporting responsible sourcing practices and helping change future consumption and fashion habits. The role that sustainable forestry can play in providing tools for responsible producers, fashion brands, retailers and their buyers to make us all better dressed, as well as the world a better place to live in, is huge.”.
The event was sponsored by AB Packaging Group, a leading supplier of sustainable and environmentally friendly shopping/carrier bags to the global retail sector. PEFC’s Forests for Fashion initiative is in partnership with UNECE and the United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, and are tasked to change the path of fashion from a social, economic and environmental concern, to a driver for the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.