Photo courtesy of Fashion Impact Fund
Photo Courtesy of Fashion Impact Fund/ David Nicholas
03 June 2024

Remarks of the UN Office for Partnerships Executive Director to the Third UN Fashion and Lifestyle Network Annual Meeting

[As Delivered] 3 June 2024, New York

Good afternoon everyone,

It is a great honour to welcome you all to the third UN Fashion and Lifestyle Network Annual Meeting. 

Today, we are gathered to make a fashion statement at this pivotal moment in our efforts to achieve sustainability—and transformative change in the fashion and lifestyle sectors.

These two sectors play an outsized role in the lives of women around the world.  Even as women rely on these sectors for employment and income—they are also more likely to feel the adverse environmental impacts from these industries.

That’ is why this Network matters to the We the Women Campaign. This is the moment to choose a different path, one that will help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), if we make a major course correction now. We know change is possible. 

The European Union's new legislation, including the EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles, is just one example of the fashion and lifestyle sectors setting a precedent for global action.

Our focus today is to address the deep-rooted social issues as well as environmental challenges within these industries.

Inequality, particularly gender inequality, remains a significant challenge. 

The fashion and lifestyle sectors employ millions of people worldwide, mostly women. Women make up about 80 per cent of the workforce in the fashion industry, yet they often earn only a fraction of their male counterparts' wages. 

But, it’s not just about pay inequalities. Many women face systemic inequalities, unsafe working conditions, and limited opportunities for advancement. Gender equality is not just a moral imperative, it is essential, so essential, for delivering the promise of the SDGs.

We know the solutions exist. By promoting fair wages, ensuring safe working environments, and creating opportunities for women's leadership and advancement, we can make significant strides towards gender equality and a better world for everyone.

We just launch our We the Women survey results and it showed that 86% of women see climate change as a top issue for the next 10 years.

The fashion and lifestyle industries—you know the stats—are responsible for approximately 10 per cent of global carbon emissions and nearly 20 per cent of wastewater production, which is having a profound impact on our planet. 

The lifestyle sector, encompassing home goods, textiles, jewelry, luxury, and travel, significantly contributes to resource depletion and environmental degradation. 

The production and disposal of synthetic fibers play a major role in causing microplastic pollution in our oceans. It is estimated, as you might have heard, that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight. 

To reduce plastic waste, we must prioritize sustainable materials and innovative recycling methods. Our commitment to sustainability must include reducing the reliance on plastics, promoting circular economies, and protecting our oceans and communities.

Today's agenda is designed to address the unique dynamics, opportunities, and challenges within each sector. 

Our discussions will focus on harnessing innovation, technology, and resources to devise effective solutions for sustainable development. By mobilizing our collective expertise, we aim to build a more just and equitable world.

As we move forward, let’s remember the power of collaboration. The stakeholders gathered here today—industry leaders, media representatives, UN officials, and sustainability advocates—represent a formidable force for change.

Together, we can leverage our collective strength to drive sustainable practices, foster inclusivity, and ensure transparency in everything that we do.

Our collective efforts today and beyond are not just about mitigating harm but about actively creating positive impacts. This means integrating sustainability into every fabric of our industries, from design to production to consumption and disposal. By doing so, we not only protect our planet but also uplift communities, promote economic resilience, and champion social justice.

We are now past the halftime mark for the Sustainable Development Goals. This mid-point was not merely a milestone but a reminder to intensify our efforts and accelerate our progress. And, the upcoming Summit of the Future this September will be a key milestone to do just that.

Together, we can make a difference.

I want to thank every one of you for your dedication, your vision, and your unwavering commitment to a sustainable future. 

Lucie and Kerry: my thanks—my great thanks--for your commitment and creativity to convene us each year. 

Let us really seize this opportunity to make a lasting impact, for the benefit of our planet and for the generations to come.

Thank you.