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.
To support 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 $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
in Brussels in June at the opening of the European Commissions
Green Week. But what can be more modern, more fashionable,
than caring about our planet? By working with the retail and fashion
industry we can help change attitudes toward consumption, and ultimately
The new UNEP activities are the latest element of its 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 lifestyles
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 lifestyles
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
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, France. Ten international
retailers and associations were representeda diverse group
involved in food, clothing and other retailing. Participants included
Ahold Corporate Communications, British Retail Consortium, Carrefour,
Co-op, EuroCommerce, Ito Yokado, Kesko, Monoprix, Prinault Prinetemps-Redoute
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 mannerraising questions of
resource and energy use for example, said 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.