We know that fashion is notorious for labor exploitation and mistreatment of its workers.
Could social enterprises offer a blueprint for how fashion can start to center people above shareholder profits?
Well, this is the question that will be explored in today’s episode hosted by Stella Hertantyo with guest Simone Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.
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Read the Transcript From This Interview:
Hello, hello, it’s Stella here. I am a slow fashion and slow living enthusiast based in Cape Town, South Africa. For a while now I’ve been a Contributing Writer at Conscious Life & Style and Conscious Fashion Collective. And as of this episode, I am overjoyed to also be a guest host on the Conscious Style Podcast.
But that’s enough about me. Let’s get into what this episode is really about.
So, this season of the podcast is focusing on degrowth and post-growth in the fashion industry. And these ideas came about in response to the realization that at the core of our current fast fashion system is a business model that aspires to never-ending growth, which is unsustainable and exploitative on so many levels.
To heal the system and reimagine a different fashion system, which is more sustainable and equitable, we really need fashion businesses to critically question what values they are promoting to encourage a shift away from the short term thinking and business as usual.
With this in mind, we are seeing the rise of alternative fashion business models that are acknowledging the value that passion adds to our lives as a medium for expression, storytelling, and creativity, while also understanding that this value shouldn’t create harm.
One example of a fashion business model, shifting the business of fashion is social enterprises.
A social enterprise is a business that has a core focus on creating positive social impact.
In the fashion industry, social enterprises are often artisan-led and allow for the preservation of traditional skills. And that is exactly what we’re going to be unpacking in today’s episode with Simone Cipriani of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.
For a bit of background before we get into the conversation with Simone, the Ethical Fashion Initiative was founded in 2009. And it is a public-private partnership on the UN program, a group of social enterprises, and several industry partners.
The Ethical Fashion Initiative works with social enterprises to center the work of artisan communities across the Global South in countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Haiti, and Tajikistan.
And what they do is connect these artisan communities with global fashion brands. The profits made from their social enterprises are then invested back into the artisan communities, which allows for the creation of dignified work and the preservation of artisanal skills.
In this episode, I am joined by founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, Simone Cipriani. And in this conversation, Simone covers so many important topics, including why human rights and labor rights need to be at the center of our fashion system.
How his work with artisan communities has helped him understand what sustainable fashion means in practice, how social enterprises work, and how alternative fashion business models are helping us shift the business of fashion by tackling overconsumption and waste, why he thinks we are in the era of fashion accountability and the role that business reporting plays in this and why local ecosystems are production and consumption and circular textile economies are key elements of degrowth in practice.
Without further ado, let’s get into today’s conversation. Here Simone is starting us off with some context about how he began his journey in the fashion industry. And the moment he realized he needed to start the Ethical Fashion Initiative.
I started this idea I was in the fashion industry, I was in the fashion industry on the side of the leather industry, initially, my early professional life. But then I moved into the UN to manage a large program for the development of the leather industry in Ethiopia was Eastern Africa.
In those days, I was shuffling in between Ethiopia, and Kenya, because I was also supporting the setting up of a cooperative of informal artisans in a shanty town in a slum in Nairobi.
In that moment, I developed that idea, I had been in the industry enough to see the emergence of conscious consumerism, of a different way to think about fashion that was in between 2002 and 2004, I had been working in the 90s in Asia, and also in the early 2000s, connected to production companies and those setting up of service centers and training centers for the industry.
But I had seen I had also been working on trade promotion, and marketing and sales. And so I had seen this change of mindset at the very beginning with consumers, and also with some early industry innovators.
So when I was there, in between Kenya and Ethiopia, that was around 2003 2004 2005. And these years, I started experimenting around the idea of having informal producers to be embedded to be involved in the in some form of big supply chain as a way to create jobs, as a way to stabilize social capital to regenerate the social capital of the societies, and maybe also as a way to bring about more sustainable environmentally sustainable business and production practices.
These experiments ended up in the idea of creating the Ethical Fashion Initiative, which sold the lighting between 2007 and 2009, when I reached the ITC, the International Trade Center, the UN agency in Geneva, that hosts the Ethical Fashion Initiative, and makes it possible. And in those days, I came here with an idea, with a business plan on this and I was given a small project to test this business plan. And this business idea, the first social enterprise of the Ethical Fashion Initiative was born in 2009 in Kenya.
Wow. That’s amazing. And it’s come so far since then. I remember you saying somewhere, that it’s really about creating work. It’s not about charity. And I really love that ethos as well.
Yes, yes, you’re absolutely right at the very beginning, that we were working in African in very with communities that lived in a very marginalized condition. We didn’t want to be mistaken for a charity. I have nothing against charity. Charity is a noble and great activity that the humankind does. It’s a way to nobility the humankind and the human soul. So I admire charity.
But I wanted to say we are in a different activity, we are in creating jobs in a commercially driven activity. So in order to show people the possibility to engage with us, and to struggle their way out of poverty through the Rome war. So that is why we phrased the message in that way.
That’s amazing. And I think what I’m hearing is that social sustainability, and ethical fashion are really what’s at the heart of the Ethical Fashion Initiative. And so I was wondering, for those who may not know about those terms, could you just define ethical fashion and social sustainability for us?
It’s about, you know, ethical fashion is fashion that is responsible, responsible for people and for the planet. For people in the supply chains, first of all, for workers for those who work in production, you know, majority of violations of international labor law happened in the supply chain, but which is also responsible for the planet as a whole.
You know, that the majority, the 70%, almost 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions of this industry happen in the supply chain.
So it’s a kind of fashion industry that has a sustainable supply chain and most of all that cares about people by ensuring that human rights are respected throughout the supply chain and in all operations.
Why do I say human rights? Because human rights are the foundation for a better world. Human rights are universal in the sense that they belong to every human being just for the fact of being born on the planet, just for that.
As you, the day that you are born you acquire these rights and labor rights descend from human rights, so much sure that the international human rights framework and the International Labor Law integrate each other.
The second one descends from the first one. The ILO, an agency of the United Nations, has created a very good framework to respect these rights. There are fundamental conventions, but there is also an agenda, which is called Decent Work Agenda.
There is also a Declaration on Multinational Enterprises and how they have to behave in business in order to respect labor rights. So there are tools for these and there are also always produced by the UN, a set of general principles on how to apply human rights in businesses.
So these are the guiding points for ethical fashion that is socially sustainable.
It’s also about respecting community values. We are at this point toward that, because we work in many different African countries. But we also used to work in Afghanistan and we hope one day to go back to work in the beautiful country, and in other places.
And we work with communities, of communities of artisans, with people who make things and community values are very important there.
Because you cannot just parachute international standards into a community without having a proper exchange with the community without the community, expressing their willingness to buy into this standards, and to adapt them to their way of life their behavior today believes. So community value is another important element of respect of community values is another important element of socially sustainable fashion.
That’s a beautiful answer. And I love the focus on human rights. Because I feel like that is really left out of the fashion sort of narrative is in many ways in the fast fashion industry.
You are right! In many ways, it’s often left out and they don’t speak much about this. But this is a very important the key point in the world of today. With war conflict is rampant inequality, and the threat of extinction that comes from climate change human rights a very important concept to remind every day to be reminded every day.
I couldn’t agree more. And I think that this leads on to my next question, because when I think of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, I really think of these words: continuity, human rights, livelihoods, climate, nature, and heritage.
And so I guess, could you just tell us a little bit more about where exactly and how the Ethical Fashion Initiative works?
Well, this is, this is it’s nice that you mentioned these words, because they characterize really, our work. Today, you know, continuity when we engage as we first of all what we do, we manage, basically three things: one, supply chain that operates in different African countries in Ivory Coast, in Burkina Faso, in Mali, in Phnom Penh, in Kenya, I hope very soon again in Uganda and I hope very soon, Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the past, we’ve also worked in Ghana. We used to work in Afghanistan, we work in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In the past, we also work in Haiti.
So the supply chain where artisans mainly women from very marginalized conditions, young people particularly are enabled to produce regularly for international fashion brands.
This is where continuity the first word you mentioned and human rights comes in.
When you engage as a supplier what you need is continuity many many there’s a bad habit in this industry in every industry to have sustainability CSR projects that run just for one season. Continuity is what matters if you engage in this every season, you have to produce something every season you have to give work, every season you have to bring about work.
Continuity is what changes the life of people.
The second part, you rightly said human rights. Because this kind of supply chain this kind of work that involves thousands of people in Africa.
Today in our work is based on human rights on the human rights framework, you have to be sure you enable people to, you respect labor rights, and you enable people to access all the functionings of a flourishing life. And this is the human rights concept.
People have access to education, people have access to health care, people have access to also political voice in their own society, and particularly women that are often in some of these places, excluded from some of the functioning of society, that they have full access today, and then livelihoods.
When when you manage such a supply chain, we help people to improve their own livelihoods. And as they prove their own livelihoods, they are more careful about the environmental impact of processes.
This is why when you say climate and nature, this is very important, because we adopt production systems that are carbon-free, that are based on organic material, that are based on the continuous struggle to recycle more and to increase the circularity rate.
So this means that we by focusing on livelihoods of communities, it comes natural, therefore, to have a production model that is also consistent with the big challenge of today, which is climate change, and squaring that avoiding the threat of extinction.
But then we are also another thing that said the three things we are also an accelerator and the seed investment facility that promotes and supports the development of young fashion businesses in the places where we work.
And this is about heritage you mentioned heritage, it’s about the cultural heritage of these wonderful places to be leveraged in order to create value and to create the head of the value chain in the places where we work.
In the supply chain we are suppliers of international brands, but also local brands which we support with the accelerator and the seed investment facility. And just to give you some anticipation of future news, we are also trying to create a full-fledge blended investment facility with also a growth investment fund to support that.
And then again to strengthen these, all these words, you have to be sure that you work on a global level and that you are followed also by the global fashion industry. And this is why the third thing we do an advocacy center for sustainable practices particularly ESG due diligence and corporate reporting.
And all these we have the beautiful partnership with the Association of the Italian fashion brands which is called in Italian, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, it makes Association of the Italian fashion brands.
And we then promote the use of the sustainability tools, due diligence, and reporting tools, we experiment on them, and we spread the use on them at the global level, we are also partnering on them for the forthcoming fashion sustainability awards that cover the della moda organizing in Milan, in fashion season in September 2022.
Incredible, absolutely incredible. And I think this kind of continuous investment. And what you’re describing here is so important because I think in the fashion space, there’s often so much greenwashing of companies wanting to do once-off collections or campaigns where they’re not really planning to invest time and energy into, you know, people and communities that really would benefit from that.
So I love this idea of continuity and this focus on heritage and nature. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks to you.
It’s a pleasure!
In many ways, you know, these artisan communities that you work with in many countries in the Global South are at the vanguard of these sustainable practices. And often we should be learning from them.
So I was just wondering, could you tell us about some of the skills I know there’s probably so many, but just some of the skills that are offered by the different collectives that you work with, and how this has really helped you understand and visualize what sustainable fashion looks like in practice.
Listen, I have an example a very clear example. I think it’s something that has really, that is really on top of my mind, and it’s about circularity. When we initially started in this lab where we started this work was neighbouring to a dump site.
And while working on this, we discovered many cooperatives of people who were recycling things in the dump site. They were incredible. They were recycling almost everything, to the point that they had the discipline of recycling them on an early form of circularity, which was much more advanced than what I saw in the industry in those days.
So we started thinking about this and we started embedding these into our work and one of the first brands we worked with, and which still works with us, to the glory of continuity. Vivienne Westwood, a brand that is still at work with us after years and years and years, seasons and seasons. They have never missed a single season.
They said hey, why don’t we do the same? Why don’t we start lining our bags? We are making bags for them. Why don’t we line our bags with secondhand clothes that you find on the market you know, Eastern Africa is flooded by secondhand clothing which is sold in the local market which in the past also destroyed local production capabilities because it displace them. People started buying secondhand things which were cheaper.
So creating a huge social problem and economic problem but then we said okay, let’s see if we can use these materials to create more jobs. So reusing these materials in our productions with Westwood, we started lining the bags with the second-hand shirts and clothes. This way you work for the secondhand things in a clothing in eastern Africa as mitumba, m-i-t-u-m-b-a, mitumba.
So recycling the mitumba, we started learning about how to do that. Also, I remember working with an Italian brand coming to campus, we used to work within those days, which was about completely recycling and repurposing.
And so learning more about this but out of the skills that were available in these communities today, with artisan fashion, artisan fashion is the social enterprise, the spinoff of the ethical fashion initiative in Kenya. It’s the first social enterprise of the ethical fashion initiative, which has become an independent company that is still part of our network that gives worked well to people that works with communities.
But now what is some fashion is setting up in some investors, the first circular factory in the region, a fully circular factory. And this is a spinoff of this early experience mobilized by the skill that we saw with the artisan communities we were working with in that first slum in Iraq. So we learn from them, and we are doing something that derives from this learning process.
That’s amazing. I love that so much. And I don’t even have words, but I think it’s really, really beautiful. And the way that we have often dismissed many people’s ways of living, and now we can learn from that and breathe it into our own fashion systems is such a beautiful thing.
So you mentioned this idea of social enterprise. And I know that you work a lot with that business model. So I was wondering if you could explain what a social enterprise is and how this aligns with the work that you do?
I’m very glad to do that. Thank you for the question. A social enterprise is an organization that uses commercial means, a commercial strategy to achieve a social and environmental objectives within the framework of a commercial discipline, so by being financially and commercially sustainable, but using the reinvesting the profits into the magnifying of its impact over society and the environment.
So in our case, our social enterprise is magnify employment — sorry maximize employment opportunities. So they create a large supply chain around them a large supply chain made up of cooperatives and micro-enterprises and self help groups, small producers, the total work coordinated by in a single supply chain that is coordinated by the social enterprise, respecting labor standards and human rights.
And at the same time adopting sustainable production techniques that makes also the impact on the environment that minimize the impact on the environment or that produce a positive impact on the environment.
So just to give you an example, our social enterprise in Burkina Faso, the name is Cabes. C A B E S. The French pronunciation that you say and the Italian one you say CABES. CABES works with 91 coordinator supply chain where 91 cooperatives work. 2400 people, mostly women work in the supply chain.
But CABES buys organic cotton, because CABES produces fabric, cotton fabric luxury fabric for the fashion industry. It buys organic cotton from farmers in Burkina Faso, thus incentivizing farmers to produce organic cotton to respect organic and bio procedures, thus avoiding enabling them to avoid the use of fertilizers and pesticides that are big sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and transforming both these with manual technologies or with mechanized technologies that make use of renewable, of renewable sources of energy, and thus producing in the society also a green discipline in production processes.
So this is the role of CABES. Of course, CABES has to sell its own fabric. CABES has to be profitable, in order to accumulate these profits, the retained earnings in accounting terms in the financial reports of CABES, these retained earnings are reinvested in the business in order to expand the impact of the business and in order to finance the operations of this business.
So this is what is social enterprise is in practical terms of the word.
I love that. And I think it — the idea of that ripple effect where the social enterprise really influences its surroundings and influences the way that people are thinking about agriculture and production, in a very positive way is something very special. And I wish that that was more common in the fashion industry.
But I think it also speaks to the rise of alternative business models, which we’re seeing now and we have seen for a while, but you know how these alternative business models are so important in really creating a more equitable and just and sustainable fashion system, while also tackling overconsumption and overproduction.
And I think that, you know, you have a lot of experience with working with this business model. And I was wondering if you could share your just your thoughts about alternative business models and their role in transforming fashion?
Absolutely. Again, it’s about respecting human rights and labor rights that the first step, no society sustainable if human rights are not and liberal rights are not respected. But then it’s also about these kind of business models that promote a better and more sustainable use of materials.
A better business model is a business model that involves consumers also in the equation, and involves consumers through transparent and precise communication on the story, the sustainability story behind every product can also tackle the problem of overconsumption and of waste of materials and these are along also with circularity.
The issue of the use of materials overproduction is a big issue in this industry. A big, big, big, big issue. It can be tackled by involving consumers and by focusing more on a dialogue with them. It’s a difficult thing. But also, in increasing the circularity rate. This is something the industry struggles with. And it’s difficult today, right? It’s very difficult.
Recently, I was in a debate with a colleague from the fashion industry. And they both have asked us what we would like to see in the future. They said, the circularity rate of the fashion industry increased by 500% just to throw a provocation on the table, but the other colleagues started laughing, but then we said, how to do it.
Alternative business models help the industry to study a new business model for themselves, and struggle their way through the conundrum of sustainability. Because you know, sustainability is not a recipe, it’s not a blueprint. [It’s not] you do this, this, and that, and you are sustainable, you put a bit of this, a bit of this, a bit of that, and you are sustainable. Sustainability is a journey.
Every company has created its own journey with its own sustainability objectives. So these alternative business models can be used as inputs as food for thought for the industry, for every company to study their own way to sustainability. And I have on a positive note, a lot of colleagues in the industry that are engaged in this, and so there is hope in that sense.
I’d agree, I think there’s definitely hope. And I think it’s amazing that there are these now we’re seeing so many more of these business models on the rise that we can use as inspiration for other people. So I agree lots to be hopeful for.
And I know that aside from social enterprises, the ethical fashion initiative also focuses on ESG reporting, so environmental, social, and governance. And I was hoping that you could just explain a bit more about what ESG is, and how this kind of reporting can really help us shift away from business as usual.
Yeah, ESG is an acronym that you rightly you said it means environment, social, and governance, it brings together the elements of responsible business. You know, over the years, the struggle towards to be sustainable has produced many different concepts, CSR, and the ESG, and so on. It’s always about configurating, all the basic elements of sustainability in such a way that you can, on one side, assess sustainability risks.
And on the other side, you can take action on these and you can report in the end on that. So what we have created is an ESG due diligence system that allows companies to profile sustainability risks in their businesses in their supply chain, and then to then act to mitigate or to eliminate them.
And then we are working on a corporate sustainability reporting tool that can allow companies to report on their sustainability of force and on their sustainability dimension.
You know, corporate sustainability reporting is extremely important today, it’s become, I would say almost as important as financial reporting.
You know, big rating agencies such as Moody’s and Standards & Poor have adopted capacities have created capacities to evaluate corporate sustainability reports because in the world of today, you have two kinds of risks for a company, one risk is a financial risk and you will have the corporate financial reports to assess that risk, but the other risk is sustainability risk, which is equally important.
So managing that risk and reporting on how you manage that is the essence of the business of today or the sustainability work of today. And this is why we have this ESG due diligence tool.
Due diligence used to be something related to low or to finance, something carried out when it was needed or once in a year. ESG due diligence, sustainability due diligence is an ongoing process. It’s a management tool, through which the management of a company profiles this risk continuously in order to keep them under control, and then he’s able to report on that.
So this is our philosophy around it. And I’m very happy to say that we partnered with the Italian association of fashion brands, as I said before, to experiment on these tools.
It’s music to my ears. And I think the word that comes to mind is accountability. Because one thing that this industry has very much lacked is accountability. And I think when you’re speaking about reporting, and all these different, you know, measures for understanding impact, it really helps with holding companies and fashion businesses accountable, which is very needed. At this moment in time.
You’re absolutely right, I would say that we live in the age of accountability. Many people don’t realize these and also powerful positions today. But this is the age of accountability.
You need to be able to be accountable, in the sense that you need to do good, to behave well, and to share this with other people. And this is part of the sustainability thing.
I completely agree. And I think to build on this, this topic of degrowth has become a very big topic in the fashion industry. And it’s often challenging to really understand what it means in practice, especially in countries in the Global South.
Could you just share your understanding of degrowth in fashion and how this relates to the context that you work in specifically?
Yeah, I’ll start from the context where in which I work, I see more and more that I see the growth of local ecosystems of production and consumption in the places where we work.
More and more fashion in many African countries, that is consumed in many African countries is produced there. There are still a huge amount of imports and so on, but this movement of locally producing and consuming is growing. So that’s the first element.
The second element is what I was mentioning before on overproduction. A good way to achieve degrowth is and to avoid possible problems with degrowth in labor, a good way is to address the issue of overproduction by stop wasting, by focusing more on a different way to plan production, to carry out production, to relate with the market, to relate with consumers, to optimize production processes, so much so that overproduction is is tackled. And therefore and what is not optimized and when it is not optimized then you still have abundance of materials or in excess of materials into focus on circularity.
Circularity can be a key element of degrowth in that sense.
Avoid any waste and having the capacity to repurpose to reuse whatever, post-industrial or post-consumer waste especially on post-industrial waste, this is extremely important. By having this approach to degrowth, you may avoid an element of degrowth that worries me which is losses in labor in jobs. At the end of the day, we need to think about this process is also in terms of avoiding losses of jobs.
I was in conversation with the fashion brand and while ago for their corporate sustainability things they had to close a big production plant in Africa. And that was a disaster because that production plant gave work to some hundreds of people.
By the same token, degrowth cannot simply be stopping or closing production processes, but reorienting them in such a way that the growth in use of the natural capital is taught. This is degrowth – stopping the growth in use of natural capital.
So degrowth is degrowth in the usage of natural capital, while enabling work to be repurposed in recycling, what is already there, and then replacing natural capital with existing products, things that have already been produced.
Degrowth is part of getting out of the linear business model. It’s part of that I see it in those terms, but it’s a concept that requires a lot of work, a lot of thinking, and also a lot of practical work on the ground to experiment a new business model and this work of ours in Africa in Kenya, to create the circular factories, part of that effort.
Definitely. And I liked that you spoke about it as a reimagining, but also that you focused on labor, because I think that that is an element of degrowth that isn’t spoken about enough.
And, yeah, I think one of the main issues with the current fashion business model, that really prioritizes growth at all costs, is that it’s based on this idea of a shareholder value. And instead, in your work, you really prioritize stakeholder value.
And could you just tell us a bit about the difference between the two and why really focusing on stakeholder value is important for creating a more sustainable fashion system?
Yeah, that’s, that’s another very good question. You know, traditionally, a company produces mass produced value. And traditionally, the way for a company for an industry to assess value is to assess the production of shareholder value.
Shareholder value is a financial concept, which is very clear, which implies that the business model has to produce the perspective of growing cash flows, which reflect into a growing value of the stocks of the shares.
But this doesn’t take into consideration the losses and the negative value produced by a company in society as a whole.
A profitable company could be a polluting company, which is profitable for shareholders, but which pollutes and therefore that creates a cost and a negative value for the whole of the community and for the environment. That’s just an example.
Wrong labor practices can create shareholder value, but create a negative loss for those who work in the supply chain, and so on, all these kinds of examples.
So stakeholder value is a concept that tries to have a holistic approach to value creation in which your head, shareholder value, you have financial value, because the company has to be financially sustainable otherwise, it is a pyramid but which also tries to avoid losses and negative value for the for the society as a whole and for the environment in which tries on the contrary, to create a new form of value for the society as a whole and for the environmental for the planet.
So this is stakeholder value, it’s a holistic concept in which those who need to receive this value are the shareholders but also the workers through better labor practices, consumers through the availability of sustainable products, communities, thanks to better environmental practices in production, and the whole board and the whole planet, because of better and climate-neutral environmental practices. This is a stakeholder value.
There is a huge movement around that, a huge movement around that international level. The issue is how to measure this stakeholder value, how can you measure the value of ESG discipline for a company. So it’s about measuring the human capital, that that you create, the investment in human capital, the investment in environmental capital.
So there are also metrics that allow this kind of measurement. The important thing is to keep in mind always that this is a holistic approach to value creation and the future the survival of humankind on this planet depends on the capacity of the humankind to create this kind of value.
Yeah. And I think it speaks to this also interconnectedness of everything. You know, businesses don’t exist in isolation. They exist within communities within ecosystems within larger global system. So I like this idea of holisticness, because it, you know, it acknowledges that we are all connected in many, many different ways.
And the work of the Ethical Fashion Initiative is about connecting, you know, artisan communities with these global fashion supply chains.
But I know that your work is also about challenging these historic patterns of extraction in the fashion industry, and really making sure that you’re enriching the local fashion industries, and working with local designers.
So before we end the conversation, I have one final question to ask you. And we ask this question to every guest that comes on the podcast. But with this in mind, what does a better future of fashion look like for you?
Well, basically, it’s three things. First of all, full compliance with the human rights and international labor law framework.
The human rights is a guiding principles issued by the UN, the labor international labor law, there is the outstanding work of the ILO, the International Labor Organization with all the conventions that are also practical agenda, such as the Decent Work Agenda, the ILO declaration for multinational companies.
So there are many guidelines and the SDGs are a global guideline for a sustainable work, which includes also labor and human rights.
Then it’s an industry that is heavily decarbonized, if not completely carbon neutral. While this is something we have to aim at, it’s a difficult task, but there is no way out if we want to cope with the challenge of climate change.
My colleagues at UNFCCC, the organization of the UN that deals with the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change are very worried they’re very concerned by that. And one of them the data also participates in the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion in a very active, in a very active way. As well as the colleagues in ILO UNEP and all the other organizations that like us work on these in the UN. And this is connected to the third point the circularity point.
You cannot achieve carbon neutrality and you cannot achieve sustainability in terms of degrowth, of a degrowth in the use of natural capital.
The concept of degrowth as I explained before, if you don’t increase the circularity rate, we use too much of the natural capital of the planet, we need to increase the circularity rate dramatically. It’s quite a challenger. It’s quite a challenge, because it’s a challenge starting from design.
Just to give you a very stupid example, you say, Okay, I produce all my things. I produce shirts, I produce all my shirts by recycling, the mitumba that I find in the markets. Yeah, but you don’t know what is the color of the fabric that you find in the mitumba. You don’t know what is the component? What is the composition of this fabric? You don’t know, so it’s a big, big, big, big, big challenge. But it’s a challenge that the industry has to accept.
And the capacity to overcome this challenge is about the capacity of the industry to remain here in the humankind, to remain on the planet.
And like you said earlier, there’s definitely still hope. So thank you.
And that is a wrap for today’s episode! Thank you to Stella and Simone — and to everyone to listened to this amazing conversation. If you enjoyed this episode, it would mean so much if you shared it with a friend or shared it on your Instagram stories.
If you want to listen to another episode similar to this one, I recommend Episode 38 with Ngozi of Custom Collaborative on Fashion Co-Operatives and Episode 26 with Anne Mulaire on Circular Fashion.
I will catch you here again next Tuesday for another episode of the Conscious Style Podcast — or maybe I’ll be in your inbox on Saturday if you’re a subscriber to our free weekly newsletter, The Conscious Edit. You can find the link to subscribe to that newsletter if you’re not already in the show notes.
Take care and see you again soon!
About Simone Cipriani
Simone Cipriani is the founder and manager of EFI, chairperson of the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, and a leading voice in the growing global movement for ethical supply chains.
Aiming to transform fashion into an engine for poverty reduction and women’s empowerment, Simone and EFI work with social enterprises to create wealth and dignified jobs across the world, connecting them with discerning lifestyle brands and measuring the human impact of each order.
EFI continues to innovate, most recently promoting emerging African designers and driving forward the debate about the role of fashion in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.