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Don’t stop believing: the role the TCF industry plays in achieving the SDGs

This article is the final of a series that has delved into the links between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Australia’s textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industry. This article summarises why the TCF industry should use the SDGs as a framework for future action.

by The AFC

6 December 2020

This article is the final of a series that has delved into the links between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Australia’s textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industry. This article summarises why the TCF industry should use the SDGs as a framework for future action.

WORDS | JULIE BOULTON & ALEASHA MCCALLION, MONASH SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE


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When we started writing this series in July 2019, our headline objective was to describe the links “between the Sustainable Development Goals and Australia’s textile, clothing and footwear industry.”

Achieving that objective was kind of easy. It turns out that there are plenty of links, both direct and indirect, between the TCF industry and the SDGs. These extensive links have translated into a series of articles covering topics such as:

  • Clean energy (SDG 7)

  • Cities and communities (SDG 11)

  • Climate action (SDG 13)

  • Circularity (SDG 12)

  • Hazardous chemicals (SDG 12)

  • Gender (SDG 5); and

  • Water (SDG 6)

We weren’t really surprised by the connections we have found between the various SDGs we have focused on and the TCF industry. As we said back in our very first article:

“They [SDGs] apply to fashion because every decision made along the product supply chain has impacts on the health of our planet. Starting with the fibre selection (cotton, organic cotton, polyester or tencel as examples – all vary in their impacts), the manufacturing process (how is the factory powered; what are the working conditions of the employees), the packaging and distribution method (what are the carbon emission impacts of a product), the consumption (how does the consumer care for a garment in the use phase) and ultimately the disposal of an item – all of these issues directly link to one or more of the SDGs.”


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A look back…

It is a great thing to undertake the process of writing informative pieces about exactly what these links are. But, with less than 10 years to go to achieve the SDGs, what is desperately needed is action on the SDGs and, on reflection, that is what we were really searching for - examples of Australian TCF businesses that are implementing, in one way or another, the SDGs. And this is where we have been very surprised.

The level of action by the TCF industry in Australia that we have uncovered, as part of our content research for series, has been pretty incredible and motivating.

Here are just a few local examples that we have previously mentioned, covering only some of the issues that we have covered in our articles:

Climate action

Australian signatories to the The Fashion for Global Climate Action Charter include Kmart Australia Limited and Target Australia of Wesfarmers Group and, of course, AFC.

Energy

Elk has installed a 77kw solar system “across three of our buildings, which will provide around 50% of the electricity for those sites.” Its 2020 Transparency Report (1) also tells us that “additional electricity is certified carbon neutral and purchased from Powershop.” (2)

Kathmandu has a plan to achieve ‘zero environmental harm’ by 2025 which includes a goal to become net zero carbon by 2025 (3). It also currently has three Green Star rated buildings and has developed a Green Star rating tool (4).

Informed, responsible material choices

Raw Assembly (5), Australia’s responsible textile and circular sourcing solutions, continue to provide options for sustainable textile sourcing.

Outland Denim notes that it has committed to using organic cotton because it “is proven to use 20-25 per cent less water than conventional cotton.” (6)

Upcycling and Textile innovation

Seljak Brand re-manufactures textile waste into blankets “made from a minimum of 70% recycled merino or lambswool and a 30% blend of other fibres (mohair, cotton and alpaca) and poly for strength.” (7)

The Save Our Soles Footwear Recycling Initiative is a Victorian pilot program “to move the needle towards supply-chain sustainability” by focusing on “divert[ing] worn-out sports shoes (destined for the dump) and convert[ing] these once useless waste items into a range of useful recycled products.” (8)

Citizen Wolf introduced the DIY Zero Waste Tote. “Each bag is a completely unique patchwork of fabric offcuts from our T-shirt production that you sew together, paired with a one-off lining cut from upcycled City of Sydney event banners rescued from landfill.” (9)

COVID-19 innovations

Nobody Denim and Cue offered up their onshore factories to collaborate with governments to produce personal protective clothing and A.BCH gave away dust masks for free with every purchase and published their pattern for anyone to make at home.


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The SDGs

At MSDI, we work with the SDGs every day. We know that the process of beginning to understand the breadth of the Goals, let alone embarking upon an implementation process, can be daunting. That’s why we see it as important to highlight positive case studies, both from the local and global TCF industry, but also from other sectors. Showing what can be done - and what has been done - is a powerful enabler for making change.

What we’ve seen across the Australian TCF industry, particularly in the past year and a half, is that the appetite for a shift towards sustainable business patterns is increasing exponentially. We encourage the TCF industry to keep talking to each other about what can be done and how, to continue to build broad collaborations and to work with stakeholders within and external to the TCF ecosystem. The more we can talk to each other about what we are doing and the changes we are making the better we can all become at implementation and share the momentum. If you’d like to delve into how Australia as a whole is doing on the SDGs, as well as understand where we have more work to do, we encourage you to visit the recent Transforming Australia SDG Progress Report - 2020 Update.

One final point before we head off for a much needed summer break. While we have sometimes written articles about specific SDGs, we do want to stress that the key to successful SDG implementation is not a goal by goal approach. A siloed approach is not at all what the SDGs are about. There are 17 goals and they cover an incredible amount of issues but that is precisely the point of the SDGs: they were deliberately designed to cover all the issues that we all need to think about if we ask ourselves this question - what kind of world do we want to live in by 2030? Perhaps if we all stop for a moment to think about how we answer that question - across all that we do - then we will be one step closer to building a better world.

Finally, a huge thank you to AFC for sharing our articles on the Sustainability Portal, in particular Ellie Meyer and Kirri-Mae Sampson.

Don’t stop believin’ in the power of the SDGs - and ourselves - to make a difference.

- Julie and Aleasha

THE SDG SERIES:

Have you missed any of the previous articles? Catch up via the links below.

Delving Into the Links Between the Sustainable Development Goals and the Fashion Industry in Australia

Water & Fashion | Making an Impact on SDG 6

SDG 5 | The Power of Women and Girls

SDG 12 | Chemicals and Fashion

SDG 13 Climate Action and Fashion

SDG 12 | Circular Economy & Fashion: Operationalising

SDG 3 | Health & Fashion

SDG 11 | Cities and Fashion - Part 1

SDG 11 | Cities and Fashion - Part 2

SDG 7 | Clean Energy and Fashion


This article is thanks to Julie Boulton & Aleasha McCallion from Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University.

Join the conversation on Twitter at @MonashMSDI

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