5 Things We Learned About Sustainable Fashion From COP15

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Photo by Nordic Fashion Association

While governmental leaders from all around the world met in Copenhagen last week to hash out a new climate-change treaty, the fashion industry convened at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit (the “most important fashion event of the year,” according to organizers) to discuss the role it must take to promote sustainability and social responsibility in a shifting clime, both literally and figuratively. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the game-changing ideas that were presented, ones that could alter the way we perceive fashion, as well as plot a new course for an entire industry.

NICE goody bags at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit

Photo by Nordic Fashion Association


The Fashion Summit also set the stage for the launch of Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical, or NICE, a joint initiative by the Nordic fashion industry to address socio-environmental issues while steering it toward responsible, ethical, and sustainable production. “Politicians cannot lift this task alone,” said Eva Kruse, CEO of the Danish Fashion Institute and co-organizer of NICE, as she addressed the audience. “They need the fashion industry, and we have a big responsibility. What we do, people will follow.”

Fashion has a big responsibility. What it does, people will follow.

Based on a 10-year plan for “fashion to take action,” NICE brings together the five Nordic countries to help designers and textile companies to align their values with the environment. Or in other words, be NICE.


Becoming a sustainable company is not always easy, acknowledged Kruse. Fashion, after all, is a for-profit venture, but it’s possible to be motivated by a triple bottom line that also takes people and planet in account. “Obviously this is an industry,” she said. “This is not philanthropy, we believe this can become a business and we can do what we do at the right cost and the right quality but still preserve the earth and take care of people while we do it.”

Integrating social issues into your business plan not only benefits society, but it can also improve profitability.

Social responsibility can even offer a competitive business advantage, said Mads Øvlisen, a UN Global Compact board member and chairman of the Danish Council of Corporate Social Responsibility. “By integrating social issues into the way you do business,” he said, “you not only do something good for society, but experience shows you can actually improve your own business: Customers ask for this attitude, employees seek places to work where they see a deeper opinion about what they do, and investors increasingly invest in businesses that are managed on a sustainable basis.”

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