The United Nations wants fashion marketers to do better
“Sustainable fashion” has become an umbrella term for brands aiming to protect both the environment and the workers producing garments. The term’s growing popularity may be a sign that the fashion industry, dominated by mass-produced styles that move quickly from the catwalk to store, is waking up to its role in overconsumption, waste and carbon emissions (which the UN estimates at 10 per cent of global carbon impacts). But some fashion brands are overstating the sustainability of their products, says Nikki Byrne, a director at Fashion Takes Action, an organization currently conducting a government-backed study on Canadian consumer’s attitudes and behaviors toward sustainable and circular fashion. “There’s constant misinformation and so much greenwashing,” says Byrne. “Even if they are well-meaning, the fashion marketers don’t often understand the science or why there are 50 or more certifications to verify sustainability, which can make it hard for consumers to understand what they’re buying. The more brands can share the data, the more educated consumers become.” A new Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook calls on the global fashion industry to do just that.
The playbook, released last week by the UNEP and the UN Climate Change-convened Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, calls for fashion media to work toward countering misinformation, reducing messages perpetuating overconsumption, redirecting consumers to more sustainable lifestyles and demanding greater action from businesses and policy-makers. Around 100 companies, including LVMH, Chanel, Nike and PUMA, are signed on to the charter, and to update on their progress in the following. “The playbook really speaks to the power of advertising and marketing and the role it plays in driving consumption. Brands need to take more responsibility,” says Byrne.
Bills S-5 and your future beauty buys
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), which regulates everything from vehicle emissions to the ingredients in your lipstick, was modernized for the first time since it was introduced in 1999 this June, with the assent of Bill S-5. The updated legislation codifies that every individual in Canada has the right to a healthy environment. “This is a legislative framework for protecting human health, and what we put on our bodies and faces is part of that,” says Jen Lee, chief impact officer of Beautycounter, an American company which has been lobbying in Ottawa this spring, meeting with MPs to elevate issues such as codifying the list of prohibited ingredients, prohibiting phthalates from being used in cosmetics, and closing the ingredient loophole. Lee says this is a win for the beauty industry, but only scratches the surface.