The third part of our Zero in on Neutrality: the Full Story series discussed how carbon offsetting can help the fashion industry make strides with respect to the UN SDGs.

5 years ago, the UN shared 17 goals for us to rally around to incite the change we want. As part of our webinar series, we brought together 5 experts to discuss how carbon offsetting in the fashion industry can help us progress.

Devin Gilmartin, the co-Founder of The Canvas by Querencia, moderated the discussion between Miguel Naranjo of the UN Climate Secretariat, Arielle Crawford, the Founder of Arielle, Lara Pizzato, a FashionTech and sustainability consultant, and Tegan Maxey, the co-Founder of the Canvas by Querencia.

We know where we need to go but how do we get there?

Miguel set the stage, focusing on UN SDG 13: climate action. But the reality is that all the SDGs are inherently interconnected. “Climate action is a topic that touches everyone; everything we do in society is related to it,” Miguel pointed out.

We have to prevent the temperature from increasing more than 1.5C in the next 10 years. Miguel believes, “if we are going to reach net zero, we are going to need some kind of offsetting. There is no way we can do it without capturing CO2 from the atmosphere. There are too many activities that we cannot reimagine today to be carbon free.”

We know that we’re far from where we need to be. Thanks to the UN SDGs we know where we need to go, but there are infinite possible routes, so how do we get there? 

Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

While brands align their identities to different goals based on their values, our panelists agreed that goal 17 serves as a foundation for the other 16. Arielle views the “UN SDGs as a uniting language” and fashion as uniting industry, “after all, we’re all wearing clothes, so no one is exempt from participating in this conversation.”

Miguel firmly believes that “we won’t achieve anything without collaboration and if we don’t do this all together, we won’t do it.” The UNFCCC has its role to play as a moderator for a variety of actors but cannot assume the role as a policing body because collaboration will collapse. Their approach, Miguel explained, is “providing advice and showcasing nations and organizations that are making strides to encourage the rest to do so as well.”

Brands can foster collaboration too. Tegan explained that as part of the process for brands to become a part of The Canvas by Querencia, they must state which UN SDGs their business seeks to further. By default, they tick goal 17 because “by being a part of The Canvas, you are addressing the goal of partnerships to find solutions. Once you get into one of the goals and the framework you learn more and are continuously learning more. Each one of the goals lends itself to the success of others.” That is why The Canvas by Querencia aligns itself so closely with the UN SDGs.

Creative solutions for a creative industry

17 goals, one planet, 7.8 billion humans – it’s not a small task that’s been put in front of us. Which is why Arielle believes, “we must accept its complexity. While we all may want a simple answer, the truth is we don’t have it and likely won’t ever.” What we can do, as Tegan emphasized, is play off the creativity the fashion industry is born out of.

Technological innovation has propelled us over the past few decades and can definitely continue to do so. For Lara, “there is a gap between technology and fashion. We can definitely do better. We can use technology to educate consumers as well as innovate to change the way we do things.” Technology can help us better our supply chains, communicate to consumers and develop green ways to live. Carbon offsetting projects also leverage technology to help develop communities and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. 

Drivers to navigate us to success

Transparency

As we navigate towards attaining the goals set out for us, transparency is key. To Lara, “when it comes to brands and consumers putting the planet first, there’s only one way that works in the long run and that’s transparency.” The rest of the panelists echoed the same beliefs. For Tegan, “our secret weapon is earnestness” when it comes to telling your story, connecting with your customers and speaking to your audience. We have to be committed and share that authenticity.

Play your part and do what you can
Sustainability takes many shapes and forms, and carbon offsetting plays one part in it. Just because the goals may seem daunting doesn’t mean we shy away from them. We all have to do our part.

Tegan put it perfectly, “we all have to acknowledge that there isn’t a perfect solution and there may never be one. It’s a work in progress. The worst thing we can do is look at someone who is making an attempt and say that’s not enough. We’re limiting ourselves, putting this conversation into a silo and diminishing our impact.” 

Responsibility and accountability
Collaboration requires each actor to play their role and assume responsibility for their actions. As a brand, Arielle reminds her consumers to ask themselves “when you press purchase, what does that put into action.” Similarly, Green Story seeks to have consumers ask “what’s my impact” before buying an item.

At the end of the day, there isn’t one way to achieving the UN SDGs nor will it take one action to do so. With partnership in mind, start somewhere and realize that it’s part of a larger road map we’re navigating for the betterment of our planet.

Wherever you lie on the sustainability spectrum, check out the replay of our webinar here. If you’re curious to learn more about carbon offsets, download our free eBook! 

Devin Gilmartin
Co-Founder and Co-CEO, The Canvas by Querencia

Devin Gilmartin is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of The Canvas by Querencia. The Canvas transforms vacant spaces into hubs focused on sustainable development and unique retail experiences.

Miguel Naranjo
Programme Officer, UN Climate Change Secretariat

He has focused on capacity building for mitigation and carbon market mechanisms, promotion of climate action among the private sector and other stakeholders, and development of tools to for climate action.

 

Lara Pizzato
FashionTech and Sustainability Consultant

Lara has over a decade of international experience and a passion for sustainability and fashion. She works with innovators and brands on a mission to change the future of fashion.

Tegan Maxey
Co-Founder and Co-CEO, The Canvas by Querencia

Tegan brings a life-long passion for sustainable problem solving to The Canvas’s work to address the fashion industry’s biggest issues.

Arielle Crawford
Founder and Designer, ARIELLE

Arielle launched her label in 2018, after 10+ years of experience. Her brand reflects her personal values – Arielle is a zero-waster, climate lobbyist and sustainability consultant.