The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook from UNEP and the UN is a guide for consumer-facing communicators in the global fashion industry to align efforts to sustainability targets, incorporating both environmental and social factors.

Published jointly by UNEP and UN Climate Change, it shows communicators how to take action through: countering misinformation; reducing messages perpetuating overconsumption; redirecting aspiration to more sustainable lifestyles, and; empowering consumers to demand greater action from businesses and policymakers. Ultimately, it aims to teach businesses how to achieve volume growth while being kind to the environment.

The two organisations say unsustainable patterns of consumption and production are contributing directly and significantly to the triple planetary crisis and social injustices worldwide. The fashion sector is considered responsible, for instance, for between 2% and 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions as well as significant pollution, water extraction and biodiversity impacts, including 9% of annual microplastic losses to oceans, while consuming 215 trillion litres of water per year.

The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook recognises the demand for fashion and how the industry is responsible for shaping consumer demand for it. It presents the need to direct such efforts towards sustainable and circular solutions as a creative opportunity and provides a framework for when policies on how to communicate green claims come into force.

UN Climate Change director of communications and engagement Ina Parvanova said: “The fashion industry recognises the changes it needs to implement are systemic. Shifting consumer behaviours and confronting the role marketing and storytelling play within this are crucial. The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook was developed in consultation with fashion stakeholders looking to effect change at this level. It not only provides a framework for addressing the Fashion Charter’s commitment on communication, but in doing so gives practitioners around the world the means to support the industry’s wider sustainability goals across environmental and social issues.”

The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook provides practical guidance, including lists of dos and don’ts for consideration and case studies as examples of best practice. Among its key missions are to lead with science; change behaviours and practices; reimagine values and drive advocacy.

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In doing so, the Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook recognises that individual behaviour change alone will not suffice and systemic shifts are also required at the business, societal and policy levels. It explores the role of policy –from how communicators can support and encourage policymakers to lead with measures that enable wider industry sustainability, to the exact current and incoming policies that will impact communication work.