Commitment to Change; Youth Fashion Summit 2017, day 3

On the final day of YFS we presented the final draft of our UN fashion resolution at Copenhagen Fashion Summit

Copenhagen Fashion Summit serves as a platform for all areas of the industry to meet and discuss the ever pressing issue of sustainability in fashion. The event was led by inspirational speakers from leading NGOs such as Green Peace and experts on circularity such as William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle and Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The theme of this year was Commitment to Change with a focus on creating ‘common understanding and industry-wide commitment on the most critical issues facing our industry and planet’.

Our resolution addressed each of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and covered areas including education, well being and civic empowerment as well as circularity, transparency and pollution. Following our presentation (which you can read in full below) Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Impact invited us to present our resolution at the UN Global Compact Leader Summit in New York during the UN General Assembly. Kingo emphasised the need for a future where “sustainable business is mainstream business” and reminded us of our responsibility as future fashion leaders “to write the playbook for the next steps the industry needs to take today, to create the world for tomorrow”.

It was an honour to present our resolution on stage alongside thought leaders like Lise Kingo, Eileen Fisher and Livia Firth and I hope our resolution will help others in the industry wake-up to the urgent for change. From the all the speakers, the message I took from the summit was the time for action is now.

Read our full resolution below;

1. Expects the fashion industry to begin immediately working with non-profit initiatives and government groups to reduce inequality, alleviate poverty and ensure food security, with progress made by 2030, including through:

(a) helping to reduce inequality by reinvesting 0,7% of annual sales to support local manufacturing communities;

b) providing all workers with access to free health insurance, day care facilities, a meal a day and professional training;

c) suggesting governments and industry leaders enforce sustainable agricultural practices to help ensure food security by increasing the share of organic polyculture farming by 50%;

2. Urges all stakeholders in the fashion industry to establish global and local partnerships to make the world a more equitable, just and peaceful place, by:

(a) requesting all stakeholders to collaborate on breaking existing barriers between people, companies and member states to enable a flow of sustainable progress;

(b) welcoming the UN to develop a full sustainability report by 2020 that provides a holistic evaluation of the fashion industry, measuring performance not only in relation to monetary value;

(c) encouraging the UN to facilitate the implementation of a third-party organ by 2025 to monitor the status of collaboration between stakeholders related to the fashion industry;

(d) insisting that fashion stakeholders fully commit to a standardized performance system, by 2025;

3. Compels relevant stakeholders to strengthen the human bond, from maker to wearer, through education and changing the mindsets of producers and consumers by:

(a) requiring fashion companies to provide on company websites, labels, social media, and in reports transparent information per garment of each step in the whole supply chain by 2030;

(b) demanding manufacturers to empower workers by prioritizing educational activities regarding labor rights, personal financial growth, leadership, and worker representation in 10% collective ownerships;

(c) encouraging the UN to facilitate an interactive platform in at least five languages, bringing people together to take action against inequality by participating in online courses and webinars, involving industry leaders, government, organizations and companies;

4. Requests stakeholders to protect and restore our natural capital by:

(a) implementing ecological systems and recycling technologies throughout the value chain by substituting conventional cotton, reducing landfills, and eliminating textile waste in the fashion sector by 2030;

(b) encouraging fashion companies and manufacturers to immediately commit to water stewardship programs and to disclose personal targets for the same, to protect life below water from microplastic contamination, aiming to eliminate all virgin plastic by 2030;

(c) insisting that brands and governments support manufacturers and producers in eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals and materials, complying with the Greenpeace Detox Campaign to reduce pesticide use by 50% by 2022, achieving total elimination by 2030;

5. Calls on the entire fashion industry and the involved member states to lead the global preservation of and access to freshwater for all by 2025 through intensified research and investment in innovative technologies by:

(a) reducing water pollution and the release of harmful chemicals by 50% in 2025 and by 100% in 2030;

(b) introducing closed-loop water recycling legislation on a government level;

(c) implementing shared value community water management in collaboration with governments, NGOs, industries, and local communities, as well as stressing the urgency and awareness of these issues through education provided by member states and the fashion industry;

6. Obliges stakeholders to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, ensuring that, by 2030, 100% of the total energy used in the fashion supply chain will be renewable energy by:

(a) inviting all member states to ensure renewable energy practices by encouraging public and private partnerships throughout the fashion supply chain, reaching a binding commitment agreed upon by 2018;

(b) requesting that all organizations’ energy consumption statistics be published for public access;

(c) requiring the entire fashion supply chain to set in place the necessary infrastructure and encourage innovation to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency; In commitment to our future,

7. Appeals to all stakeholders to invest in recycling technology and infrastructure with the aim to transition to circular mindsets and systems in fashion production by:

(a) encouraging all member states to adopt already existing technologies to collect and process commercial and industrial textile waste By 2022;

(b) investing in a platform to share information, facilities, and resources to provide guidelines and tools to enable a holistic circular system for all stakeholders in the fashion industry by educating them about circular strategies and solutions by 2020.

CFS17-PD-Livia Firth Jessica SimorCFS17-SPEAK Youth fashion Summit 2CFS17-SPEAK-William McDonough

Negotiations; Youth Fashion Summit 2017, Day 2

Meeting with industry stakeholders on the second day of Youth Fashion Summit 2017

On the first day we worked in small groups dedicated to one or more of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 to develop fashion specific targets for positive change.  On day 2 it was time to put those targets to the test with industry stakeholders. Each group met in turn with a representative from the luxury sector, the high-street, government, manufacturing and civil society to negotiate their objectives for the future.

The High-street was represented by Hendrik Alpen, Sustainability Business Expert at H&M.

The Luxury Sector was represented by Dax Lovegrove, Global Vice President of Swarovski and Myriam Coudoux, Head of Communications.

The Government was represented by Lars Mortensen, Head of International Cooperation and Partnerships at the European Environment Agency.

Civil Society was represented by Lu Yen Rololf, Communications Lead for ‘Detox My Fashion‘ Campaign at Green Peace.

As part of Flourishing; The Ecological Agenda team, we requested action in four different areas related to Sustainable Development Goals; 13 Climate Action, 14 Life below water and 15 Life on land.

In regards to land use we urged all sectors to work together in the implementation and upscale of alternative ecological materials in substitution of conventional cotton. We requested that by 2030, conventional cotton must be phased out of supply chains. We urged the industry to reduce landfill reliance and invest in recycling technology. This was well received by Hendrik Alpen from H&M, who felt confident these were an achievable target for the High-street. H&M is already on track to reach their personal target of 100% sustainable cotton use by 2020.

When discussing water usage, Dax Lovegrove from Swarovski suggested fashion companies together with manufacturers commit to water stewardship programmes and disclose personal targets for the responsible water consumption.

In order to preserve marine life and protect the health of our oceans from micro-plastic contamination, we also appealed to fashion brands to take the necessary steps to reduce the use of virgin fuel based products by 2030.

We asked companies and manufacturers to the disclose their chemical reduction targets and to comply to frameworks such as the Greenpeace Detox Campaign with the aim of eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals by 2030. We requested the fashion industry move towards a low carbon business model (following Global Climate Action targets set at COP21) and asked companies to publish science based targets for 2022.

We received valuable feedback from all of the stakeholders which enabled us to refine and develop our initial targets into dynamic and achievable objectives. We spent the afternoon condensing this work into a final resolution to present the next day at Copenhagen Fashion Summit.

Something to take away…

Harvard principles for open and honest negotiation…

People – treat people and problems separately

Interests – put interests at the centre of discussion rather than positions

Options – before deciding on solution develop a range of options

Criteria  – build result on objective decision making principles

 

CFS17-YFS-2CFS17-YFS-3

 

 

Putting Plans into Action, Edventure Week 3

Business strategy and user research in Week 3 of Edventure Frome’s Start-Up Repair Course.

Making money and making a difference

We began the week with business planning. Johannes and Adam introduced us to three different social enterprise models;

 

EXTERNAL

External: When business and social activities are separate. The business may or may not be related to the social enterprise.

integratedIntegrated: When a business is created as a funding mechanism to expand and enhance a social mission.

embedded1.jpgEmbedded: When a business and social programme are one and the same, i.e. the business was created for a social purpose.

Johannes also presented ‘The Ladder of Social Engagement’, a way of visualising the interest of your target audience.

scan.jpeg

Van perfectly summed up the first thought-filled day with the following poem;

Monday

Sunshine beams goals we dream

Tantalizing future visions

Fixing ourselves, through expressive creation

Conversations and well informed talking

Form restless and sleepsome minds

Seeking the clarity of whatever we can achieve

Potential

Harmonious, Contemplative, Potential.

By Van Wajsblum

 

Meeting Gavin Eddy

Gavin is a local entrepreneur who has launched many successful businesses including Forward Space (a series of creative ‘workhubs’ for entrepreneurs) and the Frome Independent Market. We met him on Tuesday to discuss ideas at Forward Space, Frome. It was great to get feedback from someone with such a wealth of local experience and ‘Start-Up’ expertise. He advised us to clearly define our target audience and to consider ways of maintaining interest in our project long-term.

Speaking with Ugo Vallauri

Ugo is the co-founder of The Restart Project, a London-based social enterprise that encourages and empowers people to use their electronics for longer in order to reduce waste. Ugo kindly agreed to discuss the Restart model and our project ambitions with me over the phone. He explained how ‘Restart Parties’ (community based, free electronic repair sessions) reduce the barriers to learning and help people recognise the value in repair. During the conversation he gave me many insights into running successful repair events. He also mentioned the importance of recreating trustworthy relationships with existing repair providers. Read more about Restart’s research on the matter here.

Talking to the public

Throughout the week we developed a questionnaire to ascertain what kind of repair service people would most benefit from. You can read our full questionnaire here and if you are from the local area please take a moment to fill it out. Your input is much appreciated!

Presenting pitch 2

Informed by the week’s findings we presented a preliminary business plan to the Edventure team on Thursday.

Our mission is to launch a socially inclusive workshop space together with an online platform/mobile app focusing on ethical repair. By empowering people through creative skill-shares, we hope to strengthen social bonds, increase practical skills and reduce the amount of perfectly reusable household waste.

Guided by the initial response to our questionnaire we aim to concentrate on 3 avenues;

  • Regular affordable, themed fixing sessions.
  • Weekly, reasonably priced workshop-based classes.
  • An online directory to connect professional and amateur fixers, makers and doers.

Something to take away…

A poem from Van written on Tuesday when it was his turn to make lunch for us all.

The Sushi Situation

Best laid plans mislead big dreams

Unexpected time frames

Not bad for a first try

Saved by an angel and enjoyed by All

Earlier formation of pitch perfect questions

An air of arrival at what we can be

Morning information from a man

With proven know how

Big ideas on a small scale

We must know who they are

The providers, users and sustainers

Of our world

Cater, nurture and help them succeed.

By Van Wajsblum

Fashion ethics, a Feminist issue

A reflection on the responsibility of consumers to uphold women’s rights in the fashion industry

The subject of fashion in relation to feminism has been heavily debated throughout the 21st century. Many have fought against the stifling and oppressive elements of the socially constructed notion of fashion while others have embraced its empowering qualities as a means self-expression. The question of whether ‘the woman of fashion’, as Simone De Beauvoir puts it, has ‘chosen to make herself a thing’, an object to be admired or has liberated herself through her creative choices occupies much of the feminist literature surrounding fashion. Many feminists actively protest against the unattainable beauty ideals set by fashion magazines as well as the lack of diversity in the shape, size, age and creed of models in mainstream media. In recent years movements such as the ‘Slut Walk’ in Europe and North America has sought to empower women through their choice of clothing and remove the stigma associated with dressing ‘provocatively’. While many feminists are vocal about the sexism inherent within the consumption of fashion, the issues behind the production of fashion remain largely unexplored.

image0002e
Illustration: Abigail Garbett

Action Aid’s study ‘The Cost of Inequality in Women’s Work’ shows that at least 80% of all garment workers in developing countries are women. They are employed with no basic labour rights, often in dangerous conditions and at risk of violence or sexual abuse. Female garment workers will, on average, earn 10% to 30% less than men for the same job. Despite this, women are also responsible for a disproportionate share of unpaid domestic duties including child rearing, caring for the elderly, tending the home and feeding their families. A distinct lack of solidarity becomes apparent in light of the fact that, according to Forbes, women in rich nations also make up 85% of all consumer purchases.

emma-watson-elle-feminism-t-shirt__large
Image source: The Independant

In 2014, Whistles collaborated with The Fawcett Society, a charity for women’s rights to create T-shirt’s bearing the slogan ‘This is What A Feminist Looks Like’. While initially successful, the revelation that the T-shirt’s were made by women earning just 62p an hour scandalised the venture. ‘Commodity Feminism’ is a term used by Laura Harvey (lecturer from the University of Surrey) to describe the way in which the language and aspirations of feminism are being used by big corporations in an attempt to sell goods. By turning feminism into a commodity, the movement risks loosing its political power and becoming a ‘trend’ rather than a vehicle for social activism.

While the popularisation of Feminism through slogan t-shirts and merchandise highlight a positive shift towards mainstream acceptance, an understanding of the workings of the global chain of goods and it’s implications cannot be understated. Not only does the fashion industry rely on women to produce clothing, retailers also employ a female majority and target women as the main consumers of fashion. While men still dominate positions of power within the industry, women occupy the majority of junior positions and are most vulnerable to exploitation and low pay.

Any company outsourcing production to developing countries such as Bangladesh is likely to encounter some form of exploitation. Rather than create specific boycotts, consumers are advised by Bangladesh’s National Garment Workers Federation to lobby brands to take responsibility for their supply chain and offer greater transparency. The garment production industry is the largest employer of women in Bangladesh and many parts of Asia and as such is an essential part of the economy. In her article Primark ‘cry for help’ labels have painted Bangladeshi women as helpless’ Tansy Hoskins suggests that instead of viewing these women as ‘passive and in need of saving by western people’, it is important that we empower them through support of trade unions and active conversations with the brands we admire.

Hoskins sites Lilla Watson of the Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland, 1970, “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” It is essential not to shy away from our responsibility as part of a global elite to take into account suffering on a global level. The Women’s March protests, which recently swept across much of the world including North America, Europe, Mexico and Australia was the largest single demonstration in US history. Events such as these illustrate our collective power. Feminism cannot focus only on a certain society, or group if it truly wishes to stand for women’s rights.

000018
Design: Abigail Garbett Model: Freya Tate

 

 

Britain’s Cheap Clothes

British highstreet exposed for outsourcing production to factories paying workers just £3 per hour in the UK.

In the late 1980s, growing concern for worker welfare led to the creation of the Clean Clothes Campaign. The NGO was founded to help empower and protect labour rights in the globalised apparel industry and kick started the anti-sweatshop movement. Since then, the mobilisation of citizens across Europe and North America has marked a growing awareness of the exploitation inherent within the fashion industry. Particular attention has been placed on the treatment of the labour force in developing countries.

In 2013, the disastrous Rana Plaza collapse – widely considered the deadliest garment factory accident in history – sparked a fresh out cry from the global press. The disaster exposed many high street brands including Primark, Walmart, Bonmarche, Bennetton and Mango who out sourced production to Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In the course of the investigation it was revealed that the factory workers were being paid less than 38 Euros a month and had expressed concern about the safety of the building within days of the disaster taking place.

Protests outside Primark and Benetton in Oxford Circus, London, sought to pressure brands into taking responsibility for the event and the future welfare of their work force. A new accord on Factory and Building Safety in Bangladesh was created to improve conditions for workers though several brands refused to sign, since it meant paying more for their stock. In the UK, MPs sought to push new legislation forcing high street brands to audit their supply chains and ensure slave labour was not used.

Despite this tragic history and new legislation, last week Dispatches exposed garment factories in Leicester paying staff as little as £3 an hour to supply high street chains. While there is a general awareness that poor labour practice occurs in countries where federal law is not as strong, what is particularly shocking in this case is the location. The UK purports a minimum charter of employment rights which should be provided by law; paid holidays, breaks from work, limits to excessively long working hours, enrolment to a basic pension fund and a minimum wage of £7.20 per hour for over 25 year olds.

Undercover reporter, Belal worked for two days labelling River Island dresses at Fashion Square Ltd before being told his salary. After a weeks work he received £110, less than half the minimum wage per hour. When confronted about the low wages one factory manager revealed he considered himself in direct competition with other countries to meet orders at a minimum cost.

“we don’t get paid much for our clothes, and we need to compete with China and Bangladesh….if we pay everyone £10 or £6 then we will make a loss”

This statement is in stark contrast with River Island’s most recent accounts that show an operating profit of £144 million in 2014.

An investigation in 2010 discovered high street chain, New Look were associated with a factory paying workers just £2 an hour, the brand promised all its suppliers were required to pay a living wage. Yet despite this, in 2016 New Look was again found to be using a factory paying staff less than half the minimum wage; just £3.50 per hour. This figure seems to directly contradict the statement on New Look’s website which claims to protect workers in its supply chain and is at odds with their pre-tax profit which rose to £59.1 million last year.

Benefitting from a huge boom in online retail, brands such as BooHoo and Missguided show similarly staggering growth. Nitin Passi, founder of Missguided has a net worth of £65 million while Boohoo has seen profit rise from £260,000 to £15.3 million in four years. Meanwhile workers in United Creations, a Leister based factory are paid £3.25 per hour to produce items for these brands. Furthermore, the Dispatches reporter discovered serious violations in health and safety in the premise, with blocked fire exits, piles of rubbish and workers smoking on the factory floor.

The brands exposed in the programme responded in various ways including terminating contracts with the suspect factories, claiming they were unaware of the slip in standards or that the work was subcontracted without their consent. Missguided responded with the following statement;

“We take the allegations … very seriously and demand the highest standards of safety, working conditions and pay from all of our suppliers and subcontractors. We are committed to achieving the standards set by the Ethical Trading Initiative and conduct regular audits and spot-checks of our supply chain.”

Like many High Street shops River Island, New Look and Missguided are part of the Ethical Trading Initiative; a UK based organisation, founded to promote and support ethical trade in global supply chains. Yet inspite of such apparent concern for worker rights, the fashion industry’s consistent lack of action towards improving welfare in supply chains is deeply worrying. Terminating contracts not only leaves employees in a potentially worse position, it fails to address the root of the problem. In the current system the price of clothing is not equal to the time and effort necessary to produce it fairly. The result is exploitation at the bottom of the supply chain. I believe it is the responsibility of individual brands to ensure workers at every stage of production are paid fairly, even if this means rising the price of their apparel.

However, it is also important that change stems from consumers themselves. The individuals interviewed on Dispatches highlighted the prevailing attitude of today- “I won’t think where its come from or how its been made…I’m just looking at what I’m going to look good in”. In order for the customer to except a higher price for their goods, re-education is key. Understanding the value of production and clothing beyond trend based, seasonal wear is an imperative step towards a fairer fashion system.