Fashion: The Role of Government in Sustainable Fashion, by Kelly Drennan
A major piece of the puzzle that has to happen in order for sustainable living to become mainstream is consumer awareness. However, another important component to this going mainstream, is government involvement. When the government steps in and creates guidelines and standards for an industry – ones that are built with the help of the corporations who are leaders in that industry – then real change begins to happen.
At the Ethical Sourcing Forum in NYC recently, I had the opportunity to witness such collaborative discussions taking place between government, corporations and NGOs. It was exciting to be a part of those conversations and to recognize that this really is the future of business. We can all learn a great deal from each other.
But when it comes to government involvement, there are only a few countries leading the way. The United Kingdom is by far the global leader in this regard. (A little side fact: according to Harold Tillman, Chair of the British Fashion Council, the U.K. fashion industry is the country’s second largest employer).
Most of us are familiar with the success stories of household U.K. brands Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Marks & Spencer. Lesser known however, is the U.K. government’s commitment to sustainable fashion, and to the creation of guidelines and standards that the rest of the world can learn from.
One example is the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) that produced the Green Claims in 2003. Widely used by U.K. apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers, it was created to help businesses make clear and accurate environmental claims, so as to not confuse or misinform consumers.
But more impressive is DEFRA’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, last updated in February 2010. The Plan is a collaborative effort between several organizations such as The British Fashion Council, MADE-BY, Oxfam, Ethical Fashion Forum, WRAP and Forum for the Future, just to name a few. Together this group identified five key areas for improvement within sustainable fashion that address consumer trends and behavior, media and education, market drivers and traceability along the supply chain.
And it doesn’t end there…
In case you are wondering, no I’m not English. But I am a huge fan of what they are doing. They seem to have it all figured out. Or at least more figured out than most.
The U.K. was also the first country to offer a Masters in Sustainable Fashion through the London College of Fashion. Many important industry events come out of the UK such as Fashion Fusion Expo, Esthetica and the RE: Fashion Awards to name a few. And most recently, the British Fashion Council is spearheading a campaign that will create tax incentives for fashion businesses to work in a more sustainable way, and striving to make eco fashion more affordable and accessible to consumers.
Kelly Drennan is a true social entrepreneur, devoted to making change within an industry known for its many negative social and environmental impacts including labour, energy, waste, water, and the use of toxic chemicals.
Kelly has successfully aligned her company Fashion Takes Action with many leading businesses and ENGOs including Fashion Fights Poverty, Social Alterations, Environmental Defence, Earth Day Canada, Change for the Environment, FEM International, Vancouver Fashion Week, Green Enterprise Ontario, Toronto Greenhouse and Fashion Group International.
As a media “go-to” expert on sustainable fashion, Kelly has been featured in top media outlets including the Globe & Mail, Fashion Television, Metro, Breakfast Television, Toronto Star, Virgin Radio, Green Living Magazine, UK Times and Flare Magazine. Kelly also writes the “green” column for Canada’s fashion industry magazine, Trends,and is a contributor to two of the top US blogs in the “green” space, Elephant Journal and Eco Salon.