Sustainable Fashion

The sustainable fashion movement looks to change the way people interact with the entire fashion system. While much of the focus is on recycling and decreasing consumption of goods in order to have less of an impact on the environment, other factors like new material innovation, social justice and equality need to be taken into account.

Photo of recycled textiles

One way of doing this is to examine the fashion industry (clothing, footwear, accessories and textiles) through the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 goals agreed to by more than 178 nations. They were designed as an "urgent call for action" by all countries – a blueprint for peace and prosperity for everyone, everywhere on Earth.

But the sustainable development goals do not just belong to countries and governments. The SDGs should have universal application for people, businesses and organisations too. We can use the goals as a guide to improving every aspect of life on Earth, moving everything toward fairness and justice. This includes fashion.

It can be overwhelming to tackle the sustainable development goals head on. There are 17 goals, each with their own targets and indicators for success. So how can we begin to make sense of the goals for an industry like fashion?

Julie Boulton and Aleasha McCallion are working on it. Partnering with the peak industry body Australian Fashion Council on the Sustainability Portal, Julie and Aleasha offer analysis and insight into how the world of fashion is making progress on the sustainable development goals, and where there is opportunity for greater change and collaboration.

Take a look at their articles below, as they examine sustainable fashion in an Australian and global context.

The textile, clothing and footwear industry is facing tremendous challenges from COVID-19. While public health professionals advise people to stay at home, this may not be possible for the people working within the industry.

In this article linking the textile, clothing and footwear industry to Sustainable Development Goal 3 - Good Health and Well-being, Aleasha and Julie urge those that are in a position to support ethical manufacturing businesses, to continue to shop with these businesses and help keep them operating.

How can the way the fashion industry uses water be transformed into a more equitable and sustainable practice? This article addresses goal 6 of the sustainable development goals. It shows how water can be more sustainably used in the fashion industry and focuses on two key areas: the supply chain and water impacts once items are being used.

Over 80% of the workers in the textiles, footwear and clothing industry are women. This means that a sustainable fashion system can and should help to improve gender equality. This article shows how helping to improve the lives of women working in the fashion industry will have knock-on affects for other sustainable development goals, like poverty and hunger.

In order to address SDG 12, Julie and Aleasha break it down into two parts – production and consumption of goods in the fashion industry. In this article, they examine the steps the textiles, footwear and clothing industry can take to ensure the responsible use of chemicals in the supply chain.

The second part of their examination looks at the potential of building a circular economy. In this article, Julie and Aleasha explain that the concept of a circular economy is not new, and requires both a local and a global outlook.

Learn more about our Circular Fashion project.


Aleasha McCallion

Senior Operations Coordinator,  Monash Sustainable Development Institute
T: +61 3 9905 9179

Aleasha has a Masters of Fashion (Entrepreneurship) from RMIT and prior to working at MSDI, Aleasha worked with the Accounting Professional and Ethical Standards Board, Ethical Clothing Australia, and taught Ethical and Sustainable Fashion Business.

Julie Boulton

Project Manager,  Monash Sustainable Development Institute
T: +61 4 3872 2405

Julie holds a Masters in International Development from RMIT and a Bachelor of Law/Arts degree from Deakin University. Julie sits in the board of a local not-for-profit organisation that seeks to support behaviour change and she writes a weekly blog covering sustainability issues.