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Investing in Ethical Fashion

12 October 2012

The 1 Million Women online community wants to inspire climate change and reduce carbon emissions, while saving the earth – and you – money. 

The campaign identified 6 lifestyle elements where, with a bit of thought, we can all make a difference: food, drive, power, wear, shop, invest. Each month, one of those elements has been rolled out on the site, accompanied by a stream of action areas, tips, video clips, stats, info, and ideas for cutting waste and pollution and saving dollars.

Invest is the final element, and runs throughout November & December. Having saved money by cutting waste and pollution, rejecting what we don’t need, and choosing ethical shopping options, 1 Million Women reckons you’d have $1000 or more a year burning a hole in your pocket. 

Take energy use in the form of electricity, gas and fuel. When you make major purchases such as real estate, cars, large appliances, think about what they need to run. Choosing leaner, meaner, greener or perhaps smaller options will save you money and the earth.

Redirecting those savings to achieve better long-term outcomes for you and the planet is possible. It’s why 1 Million Women and Westpac have come together to give you ideas and real time options for investing. There are 100s of saving and investment tips from real people for you to digest; you can visit a Westpac Financial Planner and start your own plan; there are free financial education courses available and, of course, information on superannuation options for a truly sustainable future. 


And if you want to make a grander gesture, helping others and the earth, why not invest by donating. You can invest all or part of your savings in the wellbeing of women and girls who are severely disadvantaged, and living in poverty around the planet.

Some years ago the United Nations became interested in developing a business model utilising the cottage industry craft skills of women in Africa and bringing them together with the fashion industry to create products that could be sold on the world stage. The business model offered employment at reasonable wages for poor and disadvantaged women and girls, as well as outlets for the products they produced from local recycled materials, which, in the majority of cases, usually means the sort of material we often toss out as rubbish: plastic bags, electrical wire, old thongs, etc. 

The Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) works under the auspices of the International Trade Centre in Geneva. The ITC is a joint body of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation. The ITC initiative matches fashion heads, for example, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood or Italian bag makers Fendi, to local African communities whose women and girls use their skills to create sustainable, environmentally sound fashion items for those fashion houses in markets across the world.

The work being provided to women and girls has been described as “lasting and empowering”, pulling whole communities out of poverty, reducing waste and creating beauty.

Australian connections to the initiative include: jean dynamo fashion house Sass and Bide, and the AFR Magazine’s fashion and style editor and journalist, Marion Hume. Marion has been a consultant for the ITC since 2009, and has worked closely on the whole Ethical Fashion Initiative. In an article written for the website BoF (the Business of Fashion), she summed up Ethical Fashion’s aims globally, while focusing on Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June this year.

The United Nations Global Compact’s Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum hosted more than 60 sessions focused on key sustainability issues. “Good Business Models for a Sustainable Future,” organized by the International Trade Centre’s Ethical Fashion Initiative, honed in on clothes, bags, shoes.

Marion was unable to attend Rio+20 (the conference name marks 20 years since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio), but friends and colleagues who did go, she says, are still talking about the outcomes, as well as their side trip to Haiti – where many of them suffered “hideous food poisoning”. The Haiti trip, to investigate doing business in a similar vein to what’s happening in Africa, may not be remembered as fondly as Rio+20 but that’s not stopped its development.

For more on EFI:

For more on investing in programs with a specific focus on women and girls: