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Stella McCartney Announces UN Charter for Sustainable Fashion

Speaking at BoF’s VOICES, the designer also revealed the launch of Stella McCartney Cares Green, a new charitable arm of her namesake label dedicated to promoting sustainability and protecting the environment.
Left to right: Lucy Siegle, Stella McCartney | Source: Getty Images for The Business of Fashion
  • Tamison O'Connor
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OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — Stella McCartney has spent her professional career spearheading environmental issues and making sustainability practices a business priority. Now, with a new fashion industry charter for climate action, she is hoping other fashion companies, big and small, will follow in her footsteps.

The charter, announced on stage at VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate, has been developed by the United Nations in collaboration with McCartney. The full charter will be launched at COP 24 sustainability convention on December 10, detailing 16 commitments to help fashion companies curb the immense damage the industry is having on the planet.

It’s critical that fashion businesses sign on, said McCartney.

“Everything is at stake,” she said. “It’s really about bringing everyone together as an industry, and instead of having a few people talk about it, it's having everyone talk about it and the leaders ... actually taking responsibility, putting our money where our mouth is and making an amazing change together.”

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The designer also announced her new charitable initiative, Stella McCartney Cares Green, a sister arm to her Stella McCartney Cares Pink platform launched in October, which focuses on breast cancer awareness.

With a focus on sustainability, Stella McCartney Cares Green will empower students, professionals and businesses to embrace sustainability and ethical practices. It will also work towards influencing policymakers to take action too.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is creating some sort of fund for lawyers and NGOs, creating some sort of policy change,” said the designer. Technological innovation, incentives for businesses and scholarships for students will also be focuses for the charity.

A lifelong vegetarian, McCartney built the namesake label she founded in 2001 around principles of sustainable and ethical consumption practices. Unlike many luxury competitors, the designer has never created or sold any products containing fur, leather or exotic skins. Her best-selling bag, the Falabella, is made from polyester and recycled nylon. She also won’t wear animal products — even the Adidas Stan Smiths she wore on stage are custom made from vegan leather.

Originally the business was a joint venture between herself and the Gucci Group, then a subsidiary of what is now Kering. In March, McCartney bought the conglomerate's 50 percent share, ending the 17-year partnership and bringing the brand fully under her control.

McCartney said she will continue to work on the environmental profit and loss programme, which attributes a monetary value to the brand's environmental impact, a project initiated under Kering. Being open and honest is also important for the company.

“[Transparency] has to become more important to people in every industry," she said. "And also manning up about the things we need help on, because we’re not perfect.”

Industry collaboration through open sourcing will play an important role in spurring on progress within the industry, said McCartney. She gave the example of the viscose fabric her company uses in the clothes she designs.

It's really about ... actually taking responsibility, putting our money where our mouth is and making an amazing change together.

“Viscose comes from trees. Most people don’t know that. Over 150 million trees are cut down for viscose alone in the fashion industry and these are from our rainforest — this is huge disaster for the planet,” she said. “It’s taken over two years to get a [fabric] quality that we’re happy with, but we’re the only people in the industry probably using that. … I want to share that.”

The charter will help to facilitate more sharing of resources within the industry, said McCartney, who urged VOICES attendees to sign up to the agreement, not least because the very future of the planet depends on it.

“My personal idea of luxury is having a voice, having freedom, clean air to breathe, animals by our side that are happy and healthy having pure water to drink, having mother nature and planet Earth as the ultimate. I don’t know what else luxury is,” the designer reflected, pausing before adding jokingly, “other than a Falabella bag and Vegan Stan Smiths.”

To learn more about VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers, visit our VOICES website, where you can find all the details on our invitation-only global gathering, in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate.

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