Gallery: People and Planet Are One, Says EDUN CEO at Copenhagen Fashion Su...

Christian Kemp-Griffin of Edun, EDUN, Bono, Ali Hewson, Christian Kemp-Griffin, COP15, Fashion Summit, Copenhagen, EDUN LIVE

Photo by Nordic Fashion Association

EDUN’s pro-planet ethos was completely accidental, admitted Christian Kemp-Griffin, the company’s chief mission officer, at the Fashion Summit in Copenhagen on Wednesday. “It was much more about the people, much more about the development part,” he said of the ethical clothing label, which was founded in 2005 by U2 frontman Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson. “EDUN’s mission is to create beautiful clothing and sustainable trade in the developing world, in particular, sub-Saharan Africa.” It turns out, however, that you can’t minister to people without considering the planet they inhabit.

Christian Kemp-Griffin of Edun at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, EDUN, Bono, Ali Hewson, Christian Kemp-Griffin, COP15, Fashion Summit, Copenhagen, EDUN LIVE

Photo by Nordic Fashion Association

INTO AFRICA

Choosing to work in Africa was an easy decision. Bono has been one of the continent’s most fervent—and most visible—advocates for the past 25 years, throwing his considerable celebrity muscle behind such high-profile initiatives as DATA, the ONE Campaign, and Project (RED).

Trade, not aid, was clearly the answer to Africa’s woes.

Africa, said Kemp-Griffin, used to have 6 percent of the world’s trade. Now, it has 2 percent. “If you could increase the trade by 1 percent to Africa, that would be $70 billion to the continent,” he said. “And they only receive $25 billion in aid today.” Trade, not aid, was clearly the answer to Africa’s woes.

EDUN, Bono, Ali Hewson, Christian Kemp-Griffin, COP15, Fashion Summit, Copenhagen, EDUN LIVE

GARDEN OF EDUN

Although close to 12 percent of the world’s cotton is grown in Africa, less than 2 percent of it is spun there, making it virtually impossible—before EDUN stepped in, anyway—to produce a completely African-made T-shirt.

Almost 12 percent of the world’s cotton is grown in Africa, but less than 2 percent of it is spun there.

With 22.4 million people living with HIV in the region—roughly two-thirds of the global tally—tying the company’s mission to AIDS prevention was obvious enough. “If your workforce is getting sick and dying, you’re never going to build an industry,” Kemp-Griffin said. “It was important for us not only to make the garment in Africa, but also have a component that goes back to preserving the sustainability of manufacturing in that part of the world.”

EDUN Live T-shirt, EDUN, Bono, Ali Hewson, Christian Kemp-Griffin, COP15, Fashion Summit, Copenhagen, EDUN LIVE

FOLLOW THE YARN

But leveraging the clout of heavyweight brands like Google, Puma, GUESS, and Apple to sell made-in-Africa T-shirts wasn’t enough; EDUN also wanted secure the integrity of its cotton supply chain. “We found it was very important for us to know what was happening with the source of our cotton,” Kemp-Griffin said, “not just the manufacturing, but with the farmers, because every T-shirt sold had an impact on a lot of people.”

“Every T-shirt sold had an impact on a lot of people.”

The label worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society to create the Cotton Conservation Initiative, a project that seeks to protect wildlife and improve the lives of Africans through eco-friendly cotton farming around biodiversity hotspots. The goal: To integrate resource conservation and sustainable practices into the grow-to-sew, Africa-focused production process EDUN had set into motion.

Christian Kemp-Griffin of EDUN at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, EDUN, Bono, Ali Hewson, Christian Kemp-Griffin, COP15, Fashion Summit, Copenhagen, EDUN LIVE

Photo by Nordic Fashion Association

CHANGE IS AFOOT

Any company wishing to be perceived in a more verdant light needs to have sustainability built into the core of its business, rather than “do one thing and then try to give money to protect sustainability,” said Kemp-Griffin. “It has to be part of the organization and it has to be a directive that comes from the top of the organization.”

“It’s a very exciting time for all of us to be in this industry, which is changing so much.”

Still, he remains optimistic. “This change is accelerating quickly, it’s on the move,” he said. “And it’s a very exciting time for all of us to be in this industry, which is changing so much.”

And change, it seems, has never looked so good.

+ EDUN

+ Fashion Summit

One Response to “People and Planet Are One, Says EDUN CEO at Copenhagen Fashion Summit”

  1. reen collett says:

    I have an excellent idea for the Lesotho branch of Edun, and wish to contact the CEO or secretary there. I would be grateful if you could supply me with contact details. Many thanks, Reen Collett.

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