From the cat-walk to the consumer the worlds leading fashion designers and retail giants could play a major role in saving the planet. UNEP targets them in a new initiative.
Shopping for a better world
UNEP targets the retail and fashion industry as part of on-going efforts to promote cool green lifestyles
BRUSSELS/PARIS/NAIROBI, 2 June 2003 From the cat-walk to the consumer the worlds leading fashion designers and retail giants could play a major role in saving the planet.
Whether it is the high-end labels of Prada or Versace or the high-street brands of Carrefour, Monoprix and Marks and Spencer, a growing number of professionals in the fashion and retail business are responding to a latent public demand for ethical and green products.
In support of these efforts, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is working on a new initiative, dubbed shopping for a better world which aims to influence the $US 7 trillion global retail industry. At the same time new partnerships with people from the fashion world hope to bring environmental messages to a new and increasingly influential audience.
Consumers, especially the young, are often confronted with the seemingly contradictory choice of wanting to help the planet and the hedonistic desire to buy the latest must-have brands, said UNEP Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer, speaking here in Brussels today at the opening of the European Commissions Green Week.
But, what can be more modern, more fashionable, than caring about our planet, Toepfer continued. By working with the retail and fashion industry we can help change attitudes towards consumption, and ultimately peoples actions.
The new UNEP activities are the latest element of UNEPs work to advance the positive sides of sustainable consumption and production. Earlier this year, to encourage more people to embrace so-called sustainable consumerism, UNEP launched a new project that puts an emphasis on marketing attractive or desirable life-styles as a key way to sell environmentally friendly products.
UNEP has stepped up its activities with the retail sector, whose role lies in helping to change unsustainable consumption patterns, said Toepfer. We are also starting to work with partners in the fashion industry, in order to show how sustainable life-styles can be fashionable and cool as young people might say.
One of the first emerging partners in this area is the award-winning web-based global fashion magazine, Lucire.
According to Lucires Founding Publisher, Jack Yan, Fashion magazines should not only communicate the labels and their offerings, they should also give the industry insight into whats hot and whats not.
In our joint effort with UNEP, Lucire will champion those who understand sustainability, bringing them the consumer demand that they deserve, says Yan. At the same time, we will be able to send a signal back to the fashion industry that this is what todays society desires.
With the wider retail sector, UNEP helped to kick-start its Shopping for a better world work when it recently hosted an informal meeting of the retail industry in Paris. Ten international retailers and associations were represented - a diverse group involved in food, clothing and other retailing (see below).
As the link between manufacturers and consumers, UNEP believes the retail sector is particularly well placed to help put some aspects of the cool green lifestyle initiative into practice.
On the one hand, the retail sector can influence suppliers to produce in a more sustainable manner raising questions of resource and energy use for example, said Klaus Toepfer. On the other hand, the sector is in a unique position to help the public to adopt more environmentally friendly lifestyles and purchasing habits by providing customers with an appropriate choice.
In recent years a few companies in the retail sector have not only started to green their own operations but also to become important players in global efforts to make consumption and production patterns more sustainable. They are taking action: developing logistical strategies for transport, making life-cycle assessments of packaging, marketing green products, drawing up codes of conduct for suppliers, and demanding innovation in building design and energy systems.
According to Philippe Houze, President of Monoprix, A survey done by PricewaterhouseCoopers in March 2000 showed that 64% of consumers want to be informed about the production methods of the goods they buy and that 73 % of them would be influenced by social labels in their purchasing decision.
Mr Houze was writing in the latest edition of UNEPs Industry and Environment magazine that is dedicated to the retail topic. Shopping for a better world: sustainability and retailing it is available at http://www.uneptie.org/media/review/ie_home.htm.
For more information contact: Robert Bisset, UNEP Press Officer/Spokesperson for Europe on Tel: 33 1 44377613, Mobile: 33 6 22725842, E-mail: email@example.com
Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 2 623292, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, on Tel: 254 2 623084, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 632755, E-mail: email@example.com
Note to journalists
For more information about UNEPs work on sustainable consumption http://www.uneptie.org/sustain/ and production http://www.uneptie.org/pc/cp/
Some additional resources include UNEPs work with the Life-Cycle Initiative: http://www.uneptie.org/pc/sustain/lcinitiative/home.htm and on youth, which focuses on sustainable lifestyles as something desirable and funky to do. The youthXchange project is a co-operation between UNEP and UNESCO see http://www.youthxchange.net/
For more information about Lucire magazine, see http://www.lucire.com/
Another emerging partner in the fashion industry is Love the eArth.Fashion - a web site with a focus on environmentally friendly design, see http://www.earthfashion.com
Participants at the retail industry meeting in Paris included: Ahold Corporate Communications, British Retail Consortium, Carrefour, Co-op, EuroCommerce, Ito Yokado, Kesko, Monoprix, Prinault Prinetemps-Redoute and Safeway.
Note to Editors
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year, governments urged active work to speed the shift to sustainable consumption and production.
In February, at UNEPs Governing Council meeting, ministers voted to strengthen work on sustainable consumption and production, promote design of sustainable products and services, reinforce voluntary work with business sectors, and increase support for awareness-raising campaigns.
The development of a ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production was one of the key outcomes of WSSD. This activity, and UNEPs role in it, was recently endorsed by the G8 Ministers of Environment at their meeting held in Paris in April 2003.
UNEP News Release Paris 2003/38