White paper: Natural and social capital accounting in the apparel sector
Calculating the True Costs and Benefits of Fashion
07 March 2014
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The natural and social capital accounting in the apparel sector white paper evaluates both the current state of natural and social capital accounting and valuation in the apparel industry, and explores its potential to accelerate the transition to a sustainable apparel industry. The ideas presented in this document are intended to help advance the discussion regarding value in the apparel industry, frame the challenges and opportunities, and inspire collaborative action.
The paper has been developed using a wide range of literature, and based upon industry stakeholders’ opinions and experiences. The Sustainable Fashion Academy would like to thank the many apparel companies, government representatives, NGOs and other stakeholders who have inputted into the research either through structured interviews, or through the consultation period of the paper.
In particular, the SFA thanks The Prince’s Charities International Sustainability Unit for funding this exciting and important research.
What are nature, human welfare, and happiness worth? Can we include these in the costs and benefits of producing products and services? Can natural and social capital accounting help significantly accelerate sustainable performance in the apparel industry?
It is becoming increasingly clear that natural resource depletion, environmental degradation, and economic inequality pose threats to future economic development and social welfare. Citizens and decision-makers are demanding accountability from the business sector for their social and environmental impacts and their leadership in delivering solutions that significantly address these challenges.
The apparel sector can deliver this leadership. In 2012, the global apparel market was worth US$ 1.7 trillion (Fashion United, 2013). While meeting a global demand, the manufacturing of apparel has supported national development and industrialization, employing close to 75 mn people in 2012. Apparel products are very influential because they reach and engage almost everyone.
Why did SFA carry out the research?
Given the scale, complexity and urgency of the challenges sustainable fashion faces, much more needs to be done. The demands on the industry for constant economic growth can be at odds with environmental and social sustainability. We need new approaches that will reconcile the demands of the market and the requirements of the planet and people. We need individuals and organizations that are willing to openly question established conventions and pioneer new practices. We need leaders who can help us envision new pathways that can guide us during this great transition.
The Sustainable Fashion Academy commissioned this study in order to assess both the current state of natural and social capital accounting in the apparel industry, and to explore its potential. It is their hope the ideas presented in this document will help advance the discussion regarding value in the apparel industry, frame the challenges and opportunities, and inspire collaborative action.