Brazil ranks fourth among global clothing producers and houses the full spectrum of industry-related activities in its territory. As in other countries, the industry faces challenges around labor conditions and environmental impact. While there are several initiatives to address these problems, few focus on achieving systemic, long-term change.
The Sustainable Fashion Lab is an initiative to fill this gap. Started with capital from the Instituto C&A and managed by Reos Partners in Brazil, the Lab is convened by the International Labor Organization (ILO), Brazilian Association of Textile Retailers (ABVTEX), and Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry Association (Abit). “The textile and clothing industry is very important in Brazil, as well as worldwide, employing over 1.7 million workers in its supply chain,” says Peter Poschen, Director of the ILO in Brazil. “The ILO is working in several countries around the world to help players from the fashion value chain to improve their working conditions, boost productivity and revenue, and reduce environmental impact. The sustainable development of this supply chain will only be possible if it is anchored on a broad social debate and by establishing partnerships between key players.”
An Industry-Wide Collaboration
The Sustainable Fashion Lab seeks to promote this kind of collaborative change process. The Lab’s convening alliance, composed by the ILO, ABVTEX, and Abit, has the legitimacy and ability to influence industry-wide change. Building on this base, 38 leaders from all stages in the supply chain as well as several social sectors will collaborate to construct a set of scenarios for the future of the industry and to design innovative, systemic solutions to industry challenges. These leaders represent brands and retailers, trade associations, manufacturers and workers’ unions, the public sector, academia, and civil society. Members possess firsthand knowledge of the most pressing issues affecting this industry, including problems related to an informal labor force, precarious or forced labor conditions, unsustainable business models, and environmental, social, and consumption issues.
“The collaboration between the different stages in the fashion value chain is vital for our industry to become more sustainable and fair. We hope this initiative will be another step in the direction of building solutions together,” says Giuliana Ortega, Executive Director of Instituto C&A.
The project seeks to promote the following changes in the fashion industry:
- Innovative cross-sectoral initiatives to create new realities in the value chains.
- Transformative strategies and actions to influence and address the main challenges identified.
- Better working and living conditions, with a special emphasis on gender issues.
- Greater diversification and innovation in terms of industry practices and services.
- Efficient use of natural resources and production processes with low environmental impact.
- Public policies that foster sustainable development.
- Increased profitability of small- and medium-sized companies.
- Increased guidance for consumers in practicing conscious consumption.
According to Edmundo Lima, Executive Director of ABVTEX, “We hope to cause a positive impact on the future of the fashion industry in Brazil that will last for years to come. Expected project outcomes align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, such as better living and working conditions within this industry, and consumers who are more aware and conscious of their choices.”
Abit, which represents over 30,000 textile and clothing companies from Brazil, places the initiative under the umbrella of its sustainability and innovation department. “This initiative converges with studies regarding the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Textile and Clothing Industry, the Certification Program “Selo Qual” and with our incursion into the Global Value Chain”, says Fernando Pimentel, President of Abit.
The project utilizes Reos Partners’ two main methodologies, Transformative Scenarios and Social Labs, which have been applied in different countries over the last 20 years. The goal of Phase 1 is for participants to draft a set of relevant, challenging, plausible, and clear scenarios of possible futures in order to encourage reflection and debate on what the fashion industry of tomorrow might look like. Based on these conversations, in Phase 2, participants will create and prototype cross-sectoral initiatives that will foster innovation in the industry over the coming years.
“Our work aims for long-term impact and systemic transformation through collaboration between the key stakeholders in the sector,” stresses Christel Scholten, Executive Director of Reos in Brazil.
The Sustainable Fashion Lab will run for one and a half years. It will release the transformative scenarios for this industry in November 2017, after which it will focus on developing and implementing cross-sectoral initiatives. Follow our activities and get inspired to promote transformative change in the fashion industry in Brazil and the world over!