Fredrick Mugira
December 31, 2018

Uganda’s renowned eco-product designer Sarah Nakisanze has welcomed the new fashion industry charter for climate action launched this month during this year’s UN climate change summit describing it as “healthy.”

The fashion industry charter for climate action, aligned with the goals of Paris agreement including limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius or well below two degrees was launched early this month during the UN climate change summit in Katowice, a city in Poland.

According to the United Nations Climate Change, through its supply chains and energy intensive production, the process of manufacturing all clothes which people wear produces 10 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions which are causing climate change. And United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) estimates that if nothing is done to address this, emissions from this sector will soar to more than 60 per cent by 2030.

Now, Nakisanze, the Kampala-based designer, educator and art practice researcher says the new charter “might change people’s ways of doing things,” such as the use of “sustainable materials” and processes in production of “garments” helping to collectively reduce these emissions.

Specifically, the charter targets addressing climate change impact of the fashion sector across its entire value chain, with a vision of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

One way of addressing climate change impact of the fashion sector is the use of sustainable and organic materials in production of garments, just like Nakisanze does.

Nakisanze, whose current doctoral study focuses on the contribution of fashion to social sustainability through traditional cultural aesthetic, works with indigenous traditional craft materials and other fibers to produce eco-friendly clothing brands.

For example, her chemical-free barkcloth fabric is sustainably harvested by hand from the fig tree locally known as Mutuba, which encourages conserving and growing of more trees to produce fabric. Trees militate against climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere.

Also, Nakisanze’s craft materials from artisanal communities are chemical free, use less water and do not produce pollution.

“I am advocating for garments that transform,” says, Nakisanze, a don at Makerere University that designs works labelled Lususu managed and presented by Easy Afric Designs Ltd. Her Art works are labelled Nakisanze Sarah.

She also notes that the fashion industry charter for climate action could “popularize” sustainable responsibility by changing people’s attitudes.

“Fashion is a popular culture. It pulls the masses, making it easy to change their attitudes,” notes Nakisanze further stressing that, “people’s attitudes are every key in this.”

(R) Stefan Seidel, head of corporate sustainability at Puma SE, a German multinational company, speaking during the launch of the charter.

While speaking at the launch of this charter, Stefan Seidel, head of corporate sustainability at Puma SE, a German multinational company that designs and manufactures Puma athletic and casual footware among other products said everyone on the planet is wearing products of the fashion industry which puts people in direct contact with this industry.

“Now you would ask why the fashion industry is so much interested in this after all it is about selling shoes and selling clothing?” wondered.

“We are in the business of selling shoes and selling clothing and we have this huge impact (on climate),” he noted further indicating that, “Our climate emissions are estimated to be higher than those of the transport sector and those of Russian so that shows the size of the problem that we are facing.”

Russia, with a population of 144 million people, emitted 1693 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2017 according to the Global Carbon Project.

Up to 43 leading companies in the global fashion industry including adidas, Hugo Boss, H&M Group, Puma SE, and global logistics company Maersk among others have committed to implementing or supporting this Charter.

As signatories, these companies have committed to reduce their aggregate emission by 30 per cent by 2030. They are also to keep quantifying, tracking and publicly reporting their emissions, consistent with standards and best practices of measurement and transparency among others.

This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.

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