Annemarie Hou CFLN
Photo courtesy of Lisa Kato
01 June 2023

Remarks of Annemarie Hou United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network Annual Meeting Co-convened by the UN Office for Partnerships

A very warm welcome to this annual meeting of the United Nations Fashion and Lifestyle Network.

Let me get us started with a question. How many of you have been in contact with single-use plastics today? Please raise your hands.

On the way here, I needed some water, thankfully I reached for my reusable water bottle, but that wasn’t the case when I grabbed some lunch; it was indeed wrapped in plastic. And when I was choosing my outfit (you know this was a very big decision, given the theme of this event and all of you here!), I had to remove the plastic protection from the dry cleaners.

It’s almost impossible to avoid single-use plastics, and we all know that the fashion and lifestyle sector is part of the problem: 60 per cent of material made into clothing is plastic, and millions of tonnes of microfibres that come from clothing are in our oceans. This is having a catastrophic effect on marine life, and there’s a good chance that some microfibres were actually in that lunch I ate.

So, what can we do?

The presence of so many powerful voices and influencers here today gives me huge hope that the industry can become part of the solution.

We value leadership of innovative companies, like Renewcell and Eileen Fisher. You help us inspire the global fashion industry to put sustainability at its core.

Many of you are also at the forefront of efforts to ensure that garment workers have quality jobs, free from human rights abuses.

Beate Andrees, our colleague at the International Labour Organization, will discuss this important issue on the Decent Work and Economic Growth panel.

The UN is committed to joining you on this sustainability journey. For example, as we meet here, in Paris the UN has convened talks on a legally binding agreement, to be endorsed by 175 nations, that will lead to the eventual end of plastics pollution.

It has indeed been described as the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the 2015 Paris accord. And we wish them all very well.

Last month, the UN Environment Programme released a report showing that the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy.

It identifies three key shifts – reuse, recycle, reorient and diversify.

We will have a chance to hear more from our UNEP colleague Isabella Marras at the climate action panel.

This annual meeting is taking place during the midpoint of the Sustainable Development Goals. We’ve achieved some great things over the past seven years, but there are still many challenges we have to address.

We’re using a sporting analogy that we’re at halftime and sadly we are down at halftime, but we’re not giving up because any given match is won in the second half. So we need to come together and imagine what winning looks like for this sector and for all sectors. With your engagement, your leadership, and renewed sense of urgency, we can imagine what winning looks like.

You all know what it means to make a fashion statement: people stop, they look, they take notice.

Well, let’s make a sustainable fashion statement today.

We want the world to take notice. We want the world to take action.

Thank you.