Why do NGOs matter in Fashion: Vol 1

Why do NGOs matter in Fashion: Vol 1

3 trillion dollars is the value of the global fashion industry, it’s the equivalent of 2 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic (GDP).

1 in 6 people on the planet work in the fashion industry and only 2% receive a living wage, according to the Fair Fashion Center of NYC. Fashion industry is one of the largest in the world, but it’s also the 2nd more polluting after the oil industry.

Thanks to documentaries like The True Cost and the work of institutions and NGO’s dedicated to the subject (The Ellen Macarthur foundation, The Circle, Fashion Revolution, Fashion take action, Clean clothes campaign etc.) we start to collect more data about the environmental and human impact of the fashion industry.

From those studies we learned that the clothing and textile industry has an ecological footprint, which is far from sustainable. For example the Copenhagen Fashion Summit report (Pulse of the Fashion industry 2017 report) told us that the industry emits 1.7 billion tones of CO2 annually, it’s responsible for extensive water use and pollution, and produces 2.1 billion tones of waste annually, just to give some examples.

Cara Smyth, founding director of the Fair Fashion Center, explain, in an interview for Devex, how the change is slowly happening. Rana Plaza Collapse, the adoption of the UNSDG, the Paris Climate agreement, all of those events was capital moment to raise the awareness of the public on those issues.

That is one reason why the work of NGOs is essential for a more sustainable industry in fashion. They are collecting data to demonstrate the accurate risk and negative impact, but they also constitute a strong voice to educate people on the subject. It’s what happened in April 2018 with the Fashion Revolution’s “Who made my clothes” campaign, which commemorate the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013 in Dhaka, a disaster that killed 1138 people and injured many more.

Garments Workers participating in the Who made my Clothes campaign to raise awareness about work conditions in fashion factory. Credit: Fashion Revolution

Since the tragedy, Fashion Revolution dedicates his work to improve work conditions for garment workers and to push brands to demonstrate transparency in their supply chain.

In the same time, millennial consumption habits are different from their elder and are shaping a new market. The Digital Branding Institute found that 91% of millennial would switch their brands to ones that are associated with a good cause. They also observed a rise in «purpose-driven marketing», which is way for brands to connect with consumers on an emotional level.

If it is not the dramatic observation about the work condition that will motivate big companies to adopt better practice, environmental impacts should furthermore be a financial concern to brands. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group indicates that brands’ profit margins could fall by at least 3 percentage points by 2030 due to rising costs for labor, raw materials and energy, if companies continue with business as usual. This would add up to approximately €45 billion per year of lost profits for the industry according to WWF in its Environmental rating and innovation report 2017.

For instance, Nike case shows how the evolution of the market is forcing brands to adopt CSR policies. 20 years ago, Nike consumers were aware of Nikes workers condition in Thailand, and then the brand was associated to sweatshops and unethical work environment, this had huge consequences on the brand reputation and sales. That’s when, in 1998, the then-CEO Phil Knight started to make changes within the company by being more honest and transparent about the labor issues it faced. Nike also raised the minimum wage, improved oversight of labor practices, and made sure factories had clean air. After this Nike was able to seduce again teenagers and become the undisputed leader of athletic brand. It has since become an example of how worker satisfaction not only mitigates risk but also drives business success. As Hannah Jones, chief sustainability officer at Nike declare it: « Protecting worker rights is not just about corporate social responsibility, but productivity and profitability », even if actually Nike is still far from being the most transparent and sustainable fashion brand.

The role of NGOs in improving the fashion industry is not limited to research and awareness, but it can also transform the production and sales process.

Here 3 cases of how humanitarian action are impacting fashion:

1st: BlueBen: the innovative Brand/NGO who save water and help communities

BlueBen is a remarkable brand for many reasons; they are tackling water over consumption issue in fashion. They succeed to save up to 90% water by designing their sweatshirt in hemp and modal fiber, which need more slittle water than cotton. Also their sweatshirts are made in Europe and are compostable. Finally they give 10% of their turnover for compensation purposes to countries

that have suffered due to textile industry, like Bangladesh for instance.

But what makes BlueBen especially more unique is its mixed team composed of people who work for fashion and people who are specialized in humanitarian work. This combination is the illustration of emerging business model for a slower and more sustainable fashion.

BlueBen instagram campaign 2018. Credit: ChooseBlueBen







2nd: When shopping experience becomes a social action

Numbers of ethical brands are now associating purchase act with a good action. This is the case of the sustainable sneakers Wado

Wado is designing 80s inspiration sustainable sneaker, their factory in Portugal guarantee good work conditions and quality process. They also choose to not use chromium to tan their shoes in order to have a cleaner fabrication process. But that’s not all, when you’re buying a pair of Wado, you also contribute to a reforestation project in Asia. The company collaborates with he NGO We Forest that work alongside natives to restore areas of forest.

Collaboration with humanitarian project is a way to offer a useful shopping experience to the consumer and besides it participates to improve the brand identity and gives the key to fit with the millennial market. Doing good start to feel good and trendy!

Wado instagram campaign 2018. Credit: Wearewado

3rd: Sourcing fair-trade fabrics and empowering garment workers

Up to 80 percent of a garment’s environmental impact is defined by choices made in the design process, consequently designer’s choices and methodology have a significant impact on improving sustainable fashion practices.

Therefore, ethical brands have the possibility to source their fabrics and material through Faire trade labels. Initiatives like Ecota-National Fair Trade Network of Bangladesh or the Word Fair trade Organizations confer a better profit redistribution to workers.

My aim with this blog is to show the utility of non-profit organization in the transformation of the fashion industry into a more sustainable and ethical industry.

Even if fashion professionals and consumers show more awareness about the dangerous impact of fashion process on communities, we still have too little data about the environmental and human cost of fashion process. For that reason, improving traceability and transparency in the fashion process is crucial. Thanks to tools like the fashion transparency index, it is easier for NGO’s and academics to collect data for their studies. Another interesting tool is the MODE tracker by Made by. Made by is a non-profit who developed a transparent and verified progress-tracking tool in order to support fashion brands and retailers in improving their sustainability performances.

However all those efforts are not enough to shape a better industry. Consumers habits and designers methodology constitute the strongest weapon to build a responsible fashion industry. As a first step you can follow the Slow Fashion World community to discover and support ethical and sustainable designers.

Improving traceability will also provide data for impact measurement of slow fashion designers and brands. Showing the good impact of sustainable brands will allow to enhance them and could be use as marketing asset to target the millennial market, with the prospect to eventually transform the fashion market.

After asking ourselves about the role of NGOs and Non-profit in the fashion sector, we could believe that many brands are improving their business by taking engagements or collaborating with labeled products. Yet it’s important to separate “greenwashing” to concrete impact projects, and it’s also necessary to know more about what’s behind a label, what is the real impact of labels. We will discuss more in detail in an upcoming blogpost !




Victoire Maureau

Victoire Maureau

Sustainable Development Advisor & SFW Change-Maker

Hi I’m Victoire and I joined the Slow Fashion World Community as Switzerland #SFWChangeMaker. I’m a 27 years old Parisian living in Switzerland. I studied law and political science and recently graduated in international development at la Sorbonne. Passionate about how innovation and technology can improve communities and help people, I joined Techfugees, a tech community that respond refugees needs. Beside this, I worked as a green investment and sustainable innovation consultant.



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Innovation has been a key point for Slow Fashion World before the platform was even funded officially in 2017. While SFW sets the accent in the slow philosophy, diversity and cultural identity, unifying a conscious community of change-makers, in Slow Fashion World, we  believe that innovation can help us push the fashion industry into the right direction: sustainability.

The SFW team is very excited to finally share a bit more of our most ambitious project yet. Integrating technological innovation for sustainability but also to bring that technology to all fashion professionals: from established designers, brands to artisans and fashion startups.

We are looking into implementing Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency as this is a technology that is built by and for the community aligning to one of the core values of our platform.

Is Blockchain just a trend?

We are hearing more and more the words Blockchain, Bitcoin, cryptocurrency … and it can be difficult to make the link to sustainability.

Let’s start from the beginning: what a blockchain does is to connect information. A blockchain records and connects information preserving the source of the information and securing it, no one can manipulate it.

Nowadays the most developed and known application of Blockchain is financial but the information recorded can be any fact, event, or transaction that you want noted; that is why it is so interesting and has so many potential applications.

What can Blockchain tech do for sustainability?

The power of blockchain technology is that it has potential to transform industries. In the case of the fashion industry the way the data is stored and shared through the blockchain and the alternate economy system that come with it, can help in the following points:

  • Transparency in supply chain
  • Production efficiency
  • Environmental & ethical compliance
  • Authenticity of garments
  • Consumer data protection
  • Fair business models & trade
  • Heritage preservation

Blockchain & sustainability pioneers

Applying Blockchain to help solve some of the current issues in the fashion industry is still a very avant-garde approach. But there are some visionaries around that have started to experiment with this. One of them is Danish designer Martine Jarlgaard.

Martine Jarlgaard work is admirable, not only for her Scandinavian minimalistic style but also because she is a strong advocate of sustainable and ethical practices in the fashion industry. She uses sustainable materials such as up-cycled workwear, organic British alpaca, Italian surplus production materials, hemp, linen.

On top of that, Martine has been one of the pioneers in using Blockchain to guarantee the transparency in the supply chain.

“When I think about our world and outsourcing now, we’ve gained a great distance to how things are made. We need to re-educate ourselves. Technology will be what helps to reconnect us to the people and the places involved, and that information will increase consumer expectations, which will put more pressure on the big companies.”

What Martine did is to track the journey of raw material through the supply chain and to finished garment.

Each step of the process is registered and tracked on the Blockchain via an app: from shearing at the British Alpaca farm, to spinning, through to knitting at Knitster LDN, and finally to Martine Jarlgaard, at the designer’s studio in London.

Each garment has a unique digital token which enables the Blockchain company Provenance to verify every step of its production and create a digital history of that information including location data, content and timestamps. All this information is presented to consumers via an interface they can access through their item’s QR code or NFC-enabled label

This approach to transparency and traceability enables trust and informed choices on the consumer side. At the same time beautiful stories are being told. We leave you with our favorite quote:

Introducting Blockchain to SFW platform

Inspired by change-makers introducing technology and sustainability like Martine and offering the community solutions while providing access to technology to everyone, SFW has decided to launch a Blockchain project that also aims to give our Slow Fashion Community access to that technology.

The Marketplace

Slow Fashion World will be launching next year a marketplace where transactions will be made in cryptocurrency ( and later on, in our own token).

This is a natural step forward for Slow Fashion World to involve the conscious citizen in our platform. Our aim is to create discussion and propose solutions for the thoughtful consumer that is looking for transparency and does not want to compromise style. We will offer access to a curated directory of brands and makers, experiences and services that will help the whole community continue thriving a conscious lifestyle while incorporating sustainable pieces in their wardrobe.

The goal is to be the bridge between makers and consumers. Create a platform where they can interact and get to ask the right questions directly and build a relationship with the brands. At the end, experiences and stories is what is worth it when choosing to move to slow fashion.

All this built in the blockchain. In addition, to improve the fairness and participation, in the second part of the project the platform will use its own native utility token.

Traceability system

We work in the defense and visibility of artisans, makers and garment workers around the world as we consider important to protect their work, their culture and heritage and their rights. For that reason we have set as one of our objectives to bring this transparency to our platform.

In one hand by helping professionals to access this technology. And in another hand by giving consumers the tools to access accurate information about the clothing and goods they buy. If we can provide that information, they will be able to do smart and fair choices.

We are very pleased to share with you  about this project and we are working continuously to make it a reality. We will share more details in the upcoming months in our community (Join us for getting the first updates). In the meantime, if you wish to collaborate with us, please contact us hello@slowfashionworld.com

Susana Nakatani

Susana Nakatani

Co-founder Slow Fashion World

Susana is the founder of Susana Nakatani, a Swedish fashion label that cares about timeless style, solid handmade construction and that has a passion for sewing tradition. Susana Nakatani has also a strong interest in Blockchain technology and works the Selfkey Foundation which has developed blockchain-based distributed ledger technology and a series of cryptographic protocols to encourage consumers to entirely own and manage their own identities and data (“Self-Sovereign Identity.” ).

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