The UN’s global goals for fashion

In 2015, the United Nations set out 17 Sustainable Development Goals for all member states, creating a global call to action and pushing the cruciality of environmental, social and cultural initiatives for the betterment of our world.


The Sustainable Development Goals build upon decades of UN work. Beginning with the Brundtland Report in the 1980s, which outlined fundamental components for sustainable development, and which remains the backbone of the organisation’s work on sustainable development.


These 17 comprehensive goals feature 230 indicators, by which progress can be measured, with the aim of fulfilling many of them by 2030. Each year, states come together to report on their progress towards achieving their SDGs.


As reported by fashion business innovator Sunman Export, we may feel disconnected from goals around economic growth or water supplies. Yet, these certainly affect all of us as our world becomes more interconnected than ever. It may appear as if our what we wear isn’t at all connected to the SDGs, but below we will explore how they’re intrinsically linked.


SDG 12: Responsible Production and Consumption


The twelfth SDG is focused on promoting efficiency within resources and energy, building sustainable infrastructure, green jobs and improving the quality of life globally. When we consider the resources, energy and labour involved in production, we can start to see links forming between the SDGs and fashion. Nearly three-fifths of clothing produced globally is incinerated.


At the current rate, reports the UN, natural resource consumption is increasing, particularly within Eastern Asia. The organisation notes that changes needs to be seen within supply chains, from producer to consumer. Crucially, this involves educating consumers about sustainable consumption and living. This would allow fashion’s consumer base to gain autonomy from brands who consistently market themselves as ‘green’, or make minimalistic changes, with little interest in ethics and a remaining focus on revenues.


With regard to fashion, some of SDG 12’s key targets include:

  1. Achieving environmentally sound management of chemicals and waste throughout their life cycles by 2020

  2. Substantially reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse by 2030

  3. Promoting sustainable public procurement practices, in accordance with national policies and priorities

  4. By 2030, ensuring that people globally possess comprehensive information and awareness of how to live in harmony with nature

So, are we seeing any tangible improvements based on these targets? In its 2019 Progress Report, The UN Secretary-General explained that worldwide material consumption continues to expand rapidly. With this jeopardizing the achievement of SDG 12, and the 16 other goals, it’s easy to feel disheartened.

However, almost all UN member states continue to address challenges linked to air, soil, water pollution and toxic chemicals.


UK Fashion Retail and Legislation